With govt resources stretched, private hospitals can play a role

While it is clear that public sector hospital professionals and their support staff are heroically working on the frontline to save the lives of patients afflicted with Covid-19, and other selfless Malaysians are contributing to alleviate the suffering of out-of-work families, one does not hear what role private hospitals are playing in this crisis.

They are surely in a position to help out the public-sector hospitals for the benefit of Malaysians in need.

We are in a state of war against this pandemic and many Malaysians have been forced out of work while others will be depleting their retirement funds, which will impact their lives later.

In the best of times, private hospitals reap the benefit of the much-touted Malaysian product known as “medical tourism” and also attract the best medical talents from the public sector. The revenue per year for private hospitals exceeds RM1 billion. Now that we are in the worst of times, private hospitals do not seem to be doing too badly either.

According to Affin Hwang Capital Research, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have only a muted impact on private hospital operators as they are required only to report such cases to public hospitals and the national infection centre.

“While we note that the pharmaceutical players could potentially benefit from a surge in demand for products related to the prevention of seasonal viral diseases with similar symptoms, the impact to their respective bottom lines is likely to be minimal,” the research states.

Government and specialist hospitals had been identified to handle, monitor and treat coronavirus-related cases. They include all the state hospitals and major specialist hospitals with an infectious disease unit.

The earlier Pakatan Harapan government was too complacent, and attention to the much needed preparation for the war on Covid-19 was distracted by power grabbing in both coalitions. That was the feeling of Malaysians who shouted the curse, “A plague on both your coalitions!”

Thus, at this time when Malaysians are being called upon to make sacrifices for the nation, we would expect private hospitals which have reaped enormous profits at the best of times to step forward to offer to take some of the burden off the public sector at subsidised or no cost at all.

This would include helping out with the cases that are not related to the viral pandemic, the urgent need for special wards, increased ICU space, and equipment such as ventilators and oxygen supply equipment as well as protective gear for the staff.

All private hospitals can also volunteer to help out with the tests for the Covid-19 virus.

Kua Kia Soong is Suaram adviser

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.