Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Privatisation of IJN

IJN privatization not in the interest of the rakyat

The proposed privatization of the National Heart Centre (IJN) met with very strong opposition from all segments of the people. The government’s move to suspend Sime Darby’s take-over pending further in debt study was indeed a right move although it falls short of the expectations of the people, who want the idea to be shelved for good.

The immediate and widespread strong public outcry to the news of the possible privatization that led to its postponement is an indication of the people’s awareness and maturity, which the government should be mindful not to underestimate.

Even with the present system of operations, the real poor are having difficulty in getting immediate treatment at the IJN even for urgent cases. The delay in appointments had resulted in major complications, at time fatal ones, which could have been prevented.

With privatization the poor would the ones most badly affected. The government’s assertion that with privatization more people would benefit from its services may be true but it would be those who can afford the treatment who would benefit most not the average Malaysian who is struggling to make ends meet. How can he cope with the escalating cost of medical care? What about the hard-core poor? Where do they go for sophisticated cardiac treatment?

The rich have many highly specialized private centers to seek treatment but the poor have nowhere except the government centers which are often underequipped and managed by junior doctors and nurses. Despite its limitations, the IJN is one of the few government owned centres that provides excellent care for all.

Built by the government, IJN and its team have slogged to build its reputation as the premier heart centre in the country and the region, capable of carrying out sophisticated procedures and surgeries including heart transplants. This was no easy task and credit must be given to all those who have contributed to elevate the centre to its present status. It has also built up a strong network of patients from the government and private hospitals throughout the country.

Apart from providing treatment to patients from all over the country, the IJN also provides training for doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff and to develop cardiac units in all Government hospitals in the various states. Privatization will erode this important role that is so vital for the future of cardiac care in the country.

It would be unfair and morally wrong for the government to hand over such a ready made centre, developed with the taxpayer’s money to serve the rakyat, to the private sector knowing well that it would be operated, like all other privatized services, on a profit motivated basis. Under such circumstances the services of the centre will in time become beyond the reach of the vast majority of ordinary Malaysians.

Health care is a basic necessity of the people and it the duty of the government to ensure it is available to all its citizens at an affordable cost failing which would amount to neglecting its duty to the people who voted for it.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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