Mistake to exclude university hospitals from B40 health scheme, says think tank

A nurse attends to a patient at Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (PPUKM), which is one of the four university hospitals in the country. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A think tank has criticised the health ministry’s exclusion of university hospitals in a health scheme for the bottom 40 (B40) as patients there will not be able to benefit from it.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy described the decision to exclude hospitals under the education ministry like Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and Universiti Sains Malaysia hospital from the “Skim Peduli Kesihatan”, or PeKa B40, pilot programme as a “mistake”.

“These medical facilities play a crucial role in providing healthcare to their respective communities, both rural and urban.

“Rather than be forced to relocate their treatment to a health ministry hospital to benefit from PeKA B40, patients who access education ministry medical facilities should also be included,” its chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said in a statement today.

He said the scheme’s RM1,000 incentive for cancer patients above the age of 50, when combined with RM8,000 from the mySalam health insurance scheme, would bring some benefits.

“Unfortunately, depending on the type of cancer, length of treatment and location of the medical centre, this cash assistance will be quickly spent on non-medical and indirect expenses related to getting treatment such as accommodation, family expenses and supplementary medication.”

Azrul said the limitation of access to the 800,000 Bantuan Sara Hidup recipients above the age of 50 was also likely due to the RM100 million funding for the project, which he said was “clearly inadequate”.

“In order to secure the best possible outcome in responding to the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the health ministry should get the funds it needs to fully operationalise PeKa B40 as part of the National Strategic Plan For NCD 2016-2025.

“This plan identified inadequate additional and dedicated funding as being responsible for the limited progress under the previous national NCD strategy. This shortcoming should not be repeated.”

He said Galen hoped that the results from the PeKA pilot programme would justify the increased allocation of at least RM300 million for it in the next budget as it was a “strategic investment” to improve healthcare among the B40.

Earlier today, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad launched the PeKA scheme, which will begin in March.

The RM100 million allocation will be used for health screenings, purchase of medical devices, incentives and healthcare transportation allowance, among others.