KLANG: The extra funds to be pumped into the public healthcare system by year-end must firstly be used to improve facilities in high traffic hospitals to accommodate more patients, says Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah director Dr Zulkarnain Mohd Rawi.
“More wards must be built to take in the extra beds we are in need of. There is so much overcrowding at the moment,” he said.
Dr Zulkarnain said the extra funds must also be used to build more government health clinics that offer 24-hour services to lessen the burden on hospital emergency units.
“It is an ascertained fact that in every emergency unit, the most crowded is the green zone and if there are 24-hour health clinics, green zone patients can go there or be directed there to ease the congestion in hospitals,” he added.
The green zones in hospital emergency units are for non-critical patients who can wait up to 120 minutes to be attended by a physician.
Dr Zulkarnain was speaking in relation to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s announcement last month that the nation’s healthcare expenditure would be slowly raised to 5% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of the year.
Currently, Malaysia allocates a mere 2.59 % of its GDP towards public healthcare whereas the benchmark for upper middle-income countries is between 4% and 5% of the GDP.
Dr Zulkarnain said the government must also look at offering better remuneration to government specialists, medical officers, nurses and other support staff in hospitals to prevent them from taking up lucrative offers in the private sector.
The head of a government health clinic in Perak, who declined to be named, said going by the trajectory of previous healthcare budgets, a bulk of the allocations were pumped into big hospitals.
“But the Covid-19 pandemic taught us how important the primary facilities such as the government health clinics were.
“So, the additional funds must first be used to upgrade the health clinic premises which are in very bad condition,” she added.
She said besides rebuilding the clinics, these must also be equipped with the necessary machinery.
“Health clinics are the follow-up centres for patients with heart issues, diabetes, hypertension and various other ailments,” she said.
She also suggested that staff at health clinics be provided training to upgrade their skills.
A medical officer at Hospital Serdang said hospitals needed more radiology scan machines.
“As of now at Hospital Serdang, we have an average waiting period of three months for non-urgent scans. And sometimes, our existing machines break down and we have to send patients to other hospitals for scans,” she said.
However, she was quick to add that getting more machines alone was not sufficient as there was also a need to get skilled people such as radiologists, medical assistants and technicians to handle these.