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Help offered to govt

14 Jan 2021 / 12:28 H.

PETALING JAYA: Private healthcare facilities are largely under-utilised, making them the obvious choice to ease the load at public hospitals.

Private healthcare practitioners said an offer to take some of the load off government health facilities has been on the table since last year.

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched public hospitals to the limit, the time has come for the government to turn to private healthcare providers, they said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that private hospitals could be required to make their assets available to the government.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said leaving the government to take the brunt of the Covid war would tremendously strain the public healthcare system and its workers.

“Collaborating with private healthcare providers will boost resources in terms of expertise, facilities and manpower.”

He added that MMA had long before the pandemic offered to take cases off the government’s hands to reduce the strain on public healthcare facilities.

“There is now an urgent need for public-private collaboration. Some services for non-Covid cases can be outsourced to private healthcare facilities,” Subramaniam said.

“This will enable the Health Ministry to focus all its resources on managing Covid-19 cases.”

He said cancer treatment and elective surgeries could be referred to private hospitals and non-communicable disease cases to general practitioners, adding that screening services for Covid-19 should also be outsourced to private healthcare establishments as this would help reduce the dependency on public resources.

Subramaniam said some of the 240 private hospitals and more than 7,000 general practitioners are already providing Covid-19 screening services.

Among them, 821 clinics are registered with the Social Security Organisation for its programme to screen migrant workers.

“(As to costs), a reasonable rate can be worked out between the two parties. What is most important is the management of patients who require regular monitoring, treatment, follow-up and for some cases, elective surgeries,” he said.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said stakeholders in private healthcare had put forward a proposal last year for public-private collaboration and funding to meet Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 needs.

“However, there has been limited progress on this. The possibility of using an emergency ordinance must have come as a shock (to private healthcare stakeholders). Why use an emergency legislation for what is willingly offered?”

He recommended that private hospitals take on non-Covid-19 patients from government healthcare facilities.

“Those who need elective surgery or preventive procedures or cancer treatment can go to private hospitals.

“Government healthcare facilities are well-suited to deal with infectious diseases. In that, they do better than the private sector. This is totally workable,” he said.

However, Azrul added that it must not be assumed that such services can be offered by private hospitals at no cost.

“They should be suitably compensated for their services.”

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