Date of publication: Mar 11, 2014
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 019
Byline / Author: By Dr Tan Eng Bee
I AM appalled at the rising cost of medical care following the 14.4 per cent hike across the board for those seeking treatment from private doctors.
The rise is considered minimal, but with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) next year, the total cost will be higher.
I foresee many who can't afford the cost of private doctors queuing up with the many seeking treatment in government hospitals.
In fact, we know of private medical practitioners whose businesses are badly affected as more go to government hospitals. For the rakyat, a ringgit saved is a ringgit earned.
Inevitably, the poor are feeling the pinch unless they can wait for treatment in government hospitals, provided their illnesses are not terminal or in need of urgent treatment. Unless one has medical insurance, the best alternative is to seek treatment in government hospitals and to endure the long wait.
The waiting list in most hospitals is long and poor patients have no alternative but to wait for their turn. On any given day, hundreds seek treatment in government clinics and hospitals.
The rich are also joining the increasing number in government hospitals to take advantage of the modest RM2 fee.
Those who face life-threatening illnesses may opt for private hospitals, but they have to rely on their hard-earned savings or sell possessions to pay the bills.
I was told that day care in a private hospital in a normal ward in Kajang can cost RM1,000 a day, with every item used chargeable.
I fail to understand how an overnight stay in a private hospital to recover or recuperate can be more expensive than staying in a five-star hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Business considerations are pushing prices higher than what ordinary people can afford.
Unless a comprehensive health scheme is put in place, medical accessibility and affordability will be issues of real concern to the public in the years to come.
The government should seriously consider ways to circumvent the rising medical costs. One way could be to make it compulsory for employees to buy medical insurance at the start of their working life to pay for medical care in their later years when they are no longer employed.
Another idea is to implement higher Socso payments to employees covered by medical insurance for terminal illnesses and sickness which require hospitalisation? A small addition to what employees are paying currently may go a long way to offset their medical needs during their old age.
On the other hand, thousands who subscribed to Sosco when it was first implemented find it odd that upon retirement, they cannot use a single sen to offset medical bills during their ageing years.
Perhaps a form of return, such as access to free medical attention and medical facilities at either government or private hospitals, should be given to former Sosco members upon retirement.
A high-powered committee should be set up to consider the rising medical cost and to formulate a comprehensive remedy to address this matter without delay and for action at the highest level.
The national comprehensive medical scheme should provide the poor access to medical care. It is time such a scheme be created for those who can ill-afford costly medical treatment. The rich have no problem paying for their medical needs but it is always the poor who bear the brunt of rising medical cost.
Striving to be a developed nation by 2020 means our standard and quality of medical care must improve significantly and be made accessible and affordable to the poor despite the surge in cost, which will continue to escalate in the years to come.
We have no problem seeking general medical attention in government hospitals. But the critically sick should opt for private hospitals because of the long waiting list in government hospitals.
Dr Tan Eng Bee, Kajang, Selangor