Experts agree that a health reform act would help address several long-standing issues emerging from the healthcare system.
During a webinar on Wednesday, Universiti Malaya health systems and policies senior fellow Dr Khor Swee Kheng said the Covid-19 epidemic had exposed decades-old gaps and inefficiencies in the system.
Khor said a reform act could address challenges such as the shortage of hospitals and workers and the shortfall in funding.
He proposed the establishment of a parliamentary select committee to ensure the proper implementation of reforms.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N Ganabaskaran said a committee in MMA was close to publishing proposals that could be incorporated into the act.
He called for a service scheme specific to healthcare workers, saying their needs were different from those of most white collar civil servants.
Ganabaskaran also spoke of a need for a healthcare financing act, saying the system was under stress despite its successes because the public and private sectors were duplicating efforts.
He said the healthcare system could be funded from various sources, such as private insurance, payroll levies, general taxation or a combination of the three.
However, he added, management and administrative fees must be minimal.
Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Malaysian Association of Private Hospitals, said a health reform act should seek a pooling of resources.
He said excess facilities and infrastructure in the private healthcare sector could be shared or bought by the government.
“It will be good to have reforms that allow the public sector to buy services from the private sector on an agreed price so that both sectors can be sustainable,” he said.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, noted that the Covid-19 crisis had required emergency funding, which he said was short-term and unsustainable.
He called for innovative methods that would provide a long term solution and suggested the introduction of a social health insurance framework to pool funds and risks across the population.
This would widen the funding base for public healthcare and also allow new treatments, drugs and therapies to be introduced with reduced dependence on the annual national budget.
“As a beginning, a parliamentary select committee should be established to review the government’s efforts in the Covid-19 response,” said Azrul.
“It could help identify strengths, gaps and areas of concern needing reform and much needed change.”