Doctors back move for universal health coverage

Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Medical and healthcare organisations have signed a declaration in support of universal health coverage for everyone, including illegal immigrants and refugees.

The Malaysian Medical Association and other medical associations signed the Declaration of Titiwangsa yesterday evening in support of the health ministry, which recently announced it will work towards achieving universal health coverage.

The move is in line with an international treaty signed in 2018, called the Declaration of Astana.

MMA president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim told reporters that signatories to the Astana Declaration were required to make critical decisions, which may include reforms in health financing systems.

Last May, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said Malaysia would focus on implementing enhanced primary healthcare programmes to deal with non-communicable diseases and mental health cases.

Namazie said that healthcare for illegal immigrants and refugees was important. “It is our duty to look after them even if they come in illegally, more so if they are refugees,” he said.

Their health could also affect the health of Malaysian citizens, and the rise of tuberculosis (TB) cases was an indicator of this potential problem.

He said that primary healthcare and a return to family doctors would be the cornerstone of achieving universal health coverage.

“This is where we will be asking the government to play a greater role, in seeing that we have adequately-trained family practitioners, as well as adequate number of family physicians,” he added.

Dr Teoh Siang Chin, the chair of the MMA’s health policy committee, urged the government to ensure the maximisation of available resources.

One of the speakers during a public forum, Dr Chua Hong Teck, said tax revenue would form a major part of sustaining universal health coverage. Cost was not a barrier, “it’s more of reallocation of resources. The resources are there, you just need to redistribute”, he said.

Abu Bakar Suleiman, emeritus president chairman of the International Medical University, told reporters that all stakeholders in the healthcare system would need to get involved.

Following the launch of the Titiwangsa Declaration, the MMA would be spending the next 100 days to raise awareness and collect information from relevant stakeholders, before compiling the suggestions in a proposal to be submitted to the ministry.