Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Come On Ministry of Health, Heal Thyself First.

65-year-old V.A. Samy arrived at a government polyclinic in Puchong at 8.30am to seek medication for a cough and sore throat. Three hours later, he was still waiting to see a doctor.
The long wait is not unusual. And, the small waiting hall has an air-conditioner that did not work and ventilation is poor because the doors are kept closed all the time.

Puchong MP Lau Yeng Peng isn't amused by the treatment at the clinic. He said the problem was not a lack of efficiency, but due to manpower shortage. “The clinic receives over 300 patients in a day,'' he said. They seek treatment for common ailments and pregnancies,'' he added. "But, there are only five medical officers, nine nurses and three medical assistants to tend to the patients' needs.'' Should a staff falls sick or goes on leave, Lau said, there was no replacement.

“With the closure of the hospital at the former Kinrara Army Camp, the number of patients at the Puchong clinic had doubled,'' he said. "And, with the rapid development taking place in Puchong, the population, too, has grown,'' said Lau whose office has been inundated with calls from angry residents who are fed up of putting up with the long wait at the clinic. (The Star).

So the Health Ministry once again talks the talk but as always doesn't walk the walk. Recently the Minister Dr. Chua Soi Lek was strutting around as proud as a peacock regarding the new baby of the ministry - The Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, a legal device to poke their collective noses in the private health sector.

Among the laudable aims of the Act is that
-Private hospitals cannot turn away patients who require emergency treatment even if they cannot afford a deposit.
- All deaths must be reported to the director-general.
- Policy statements on billing procedures prior to treatment, consent and medical reports must be drawn up to ensure safety and quality.
A novel feature of the Act is that private healthcare facilities are required to make social contributions. The Health Minister will decide on the type and quantum.

All this is very nice and presents the 'caring' face of the ministry to the public. However monitoring the ever expanding private health sector is easier said than done and requires a lot of expert manpower from the ministry. As it is they cannot provide fully in government facilities like the Puchong government polyclinic above. This same sad story is probably repeated many times over in the rural areas especially. But these chaps in the Health Ministry are itching to cari pasal with the private hospital boys. Get your own house in order before snooping on your neighbour looking for any skeletons in his cupboard.

I'm not in anyway holding a torch for the private hospitals. Far from it. There have been times when my family or friends have been admitted at these private setups and a distinct feeling of being ripped off has been there on seeing the bills. But it is our choice. If we don't want to seek treatment at government hospitals for whatever reasons we have the right. By imposing conditions, the private hospital managements simply are going to pass on all their additional expenses incurred on us.

One question I would like to ask is, if a patient in an 'emergency' bypasses a government hospital to travel an extra few kilometers to a private facility and then claims he is too poor to pay or offer a deposit, who is to blame if he is not given treatment there? Will the 'patient' be charged for any offence? Improve the existing facilities in government hospitals first, for under your new Act you are opening the floodgates to spurious claims of poverty and circumstances by a population accustomed to grabbing anything they can get for free.

PS. If you have not read my earlier post on the propensity of our public to get their hands on anything that is free, please click here. Are We A Nation Of Freeloaders?


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3:01 AM GMT+8  

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