PETALING JAYA: The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has complained that the health white paper advisory council excludes representatives of healthcare users.
The composition of the council is lopsided, CAP adviser Dr T Jeyabalan told FMT.
“Patient and consumer groups, as well as civil society organisations in different fields, should be represented,” he said. “We need a broad representation of stakeholders in the council.”
Jeyabalan congratulated the health ministry for attempting to reform the health sector, and acknowledged that doctors, who dominate the council, had important roles to play in healthcare reform. But he said physicians were not the only interested parties.
The council had its first meeting on Aug 30, co-chaired by former health minister Dr S Subramaniam and former Employees Provident Fund and Khazanah Nasional chief Shahril Ridza Ridzuan.
Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said the council members represented those with health, economic, academic and social experience. However, NGOs have noted that all council members, except Shahril, were medical doctors.
Jeyabalan said holistic health reforms required input not only from the health sector but also from the social, economic, environmental and other sectors.
He said the council should, for example, include an independent health economist and an environmental health expert as “they would represent 15 million workers”.
He acknowledged that the ministry might call consumer and patient groups for meetings to seek feedback on the white paper, but he said these would probably be ad hoc and would not be enough.
It would be too late if the council were to seek feedback after the white paper had been drafted, he said.
“Solutions should come from a sustainable approach rather than an ad hoc one. The ministry needs to engage civic organisations and give them a stake in the council.
“What we’re seeing is a top-down approach. We need a bottom-up approach as well for a more holistic result,” he said.
Sustainable Development Network Malaysia chairman Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said the dominance of medical practitioners in the council could result in a bias in the evaluation of the national health service.
He told FMT there was a need for independent parties to be in the council since current and former government officials might not be bold enough to expose the healthcare sector’s failures.
He claimed the council did not have representatives from Sabah and Sarawak.
The council has been tasked with highlighting the healthcare sector’s challenges and making improvements that can be carried out in phases over 15 years.
The other members comprise Dr Jemilah Mahmood, former special adviser to the prime minister on public health; Dr Norma Mansor, director of Universiti Malaya’s social security research centre; Dr Shahnaz Murad, former health deputy director-general; Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, infectious disease professor at Universiti Malaya; Dr Syed Mohamed Aljunid, chairman of Kuwait University’s health policy and management department; Dr Elil Renganathan, public health and policy professor at Sunway University; Dr Teo Soo-Hwang, Cancer Research Malaysia chief scientific officer; Dr Koh Kar Chai, Malaysian Medical Association president; Dr Khor Swee Kheng, assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health; Dr Chong Mei Chan, associate professor in Universiti Malaya’s medical faculty; and Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, Pantai Hospital medical specialist and Social & Economic Research Initiative CEO.