Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Najib, why are gov't hospitals struggling?

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COMMENT | Janelle (not her real name) is now a single mother after her husband passed away several years ago.

Suffering from epilepsy, she has to take care of her only son who suffers from multiple disabilities. “Anytime I can get into a fit, and it is dangerous for me to be driving at night,” she said.

In recent months, she said her medication has changed. “The hospital did not have the budget like before; therefore, they have switched to some generic drugs.

“I was on it for a couple of months but it made me very unstable until I decided on my own to drop it and fork out my own money to buy the same medication that I was on before this,” she said.

Only two days ago, she said she was a lot more stable than when she was depending on the generic drugs prescribed by the hospital.

The worst affected group are the pensioners. They are now finding it hard to get their medicine at public hospitals.

Sometimes, the pharmacists at public hospitals tell patients to buy medicine from private pharmacies instead and then claim back the money spent from the government.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a retiree said that he has been getting complaints from other pensioners who said that with the pensions that they are receiving, they are finding it hard to afford these medicines.

“They have to pay in advance,” he said. “After that, when they submit their claims, sometimes, it takes more than three or even four months before they get reimbursed.”

This is what is causing a lot of hardships for these veterans who had served the country in various capacities. Some were in the civil service; others were serving in the army to protect the country from enemy threats.

Added strain on public hospitals

Last year, I had my blood sample taken at a hospital for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. I need to take the test every three months to help monitor the presence of prostate cancer.

However, three months later, when I went to the same hospital for a follow-up appointment, I was told that the laboratory was unable to conduct the PSA test.

The hospital did not even have the courtesy to contact me; therefore, I wasted a few hours of my time waiting in the queue for the doctor, only to learn that he could not advise me unless he sees the PSA test result.

When I enquired with the hospital’s public relations officer, I was then told that the hospital did not have enough money to buy the reagents for the test.

I am sure my story has been repeated in the lives of many other older patients. From then on, I have had to take my PSA tests at a private diagnostic centre once every three months. Each test costs RM60.

It seems that our country’s hospitals can no longer provide quality medical services to Malaysian citizens.

According to Free Malaysia Today, hospitals are having to recycle some single-use devices. This practice had apparently begun after budget cuts were imposed on the sector in 2015.

Especially when the country’s economy is underperforming, people who could previously afford to go to private hospitals are now turning to public hospitals. This is putting further strain on public hospitals.

If the economy is doing so well, based on what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak claims, then, the goods and services tax (GST) should be abolished. The petrol subsidy should be put in place again, and reduced gradually.

When I search online for the country’s GDP for 2016, a chart provided by Google based on public data clearly shows us where the GDP of three countries – Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore - lie over a period of some four decades.

While all three countries were very close in terms of their GDP in 1976, forty years later, Thailand has overshot us with an annual GDP of nearly US$400 billion. Malaysia and Singapore, which a smaller population, are still around US$290 billion. Even the Philippines has overshot us at US$304 billion.

So, how can Najib explain convincingly that the country’s economy is shining?

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


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