Private centres okay to take patients from govt hospitals if the price is right

BUTTERWORTH: A private healthcare provider today welcomed a proposal to reduce overcrowding in government hospitals by sending patients to private hospitals, but said fair payment was needed from the government for such transfers.

Lau Beng Long.

Sunway Healthcare Services managing director Lau Beng Long said an alliance between public and private healthcare systems would be mutually beneficial in the long run.

He said a scheme to divert some cases from public to private hospitals could be mooted, with set fees discussed earlier between the health ministry and private healthcare providers.

A “pre-negotiated” rate could be reached where the government subsidised most of the costs with the rest borne by the patient, possibly through their insurance coverage, he added.

While the ideal rate would be hard to determine, he said, it should be between the going market rate at private hospitals and those offered at government institutions.

“Say you do a cataract operation for RM100 at a government hospital. If it was at a private hospital, it would cost, let’s say, RM6,000.

“So the onus is now on the health ministry to look at a compromised figure, which could be borne by patients through a voluntary health insurance scheme.

“Whether it is going to be a 30% or 50% discount from the market rate, it is between the ministry and the Association of Private Hospitals.

“The fee should be fair enough to compensate the private sector and to ensure they are not losing out. Ideally, the government should subsidise enough for such cases referred to private hospitals,” he said at a press conference in Seberang Jaya here today.

Lau said the first advantage of using private hospitals to tackle the problem of overcrowding at government hospitals would be the availability of beds.

He said most private hospitals had a surplus of beds, as well as the latest medical technology which might be too expensive for the government to obtain, and the best talent pool.

“There are many senior specialists who have resigned and are currently working in private hospitals. The government could benefit by re-engaging them.

“This way, difficult cases can be treated and junior doctors can be trained by these specialists.”

He said the “very sub-specialised” doctors at government hospitals would also benefit private hospitals and could take advantage of the latest equipment available there.

“This interchange and sharing of resources would benefit the healthcare system in the country,” he added.

The alliance between public and private healthcare sectors was proposed by former health director-general Dr Mohd Ismail Merican to lessen overcrowding and optimise the sharing of resources.

At a talk at the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy on Aug 1, he said there was a mismatch in resources and workload between the public and private sectors.

He said the public sector handles 60% of general healthcare while the private sector handles 23%.