Former ministers: Implement health reforms now

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The current political setting in the country gives Malaysia the best opportunity to bring about key healthcare reforms, said Khairy Jamaluddin. 

The former health minister said the present “unity government” should not hesitate to implement and bring about the much-needed health reforms to the country’s ailing healthcare system.

“The new leadership at the Health Ministry should ‘just do it’” Khairy said, using the popular Nike slogan.

“Everything has been said, researched. Don’t be scared. Don’t hesitate when doing something, don’t think about losing the election.

“We have heard it all, deliberated all of this many…many times. It is just about getting it done.

“I think it is the perfect time to get it done because of this unique situation where you have a unity government,” Khairy said today during the World Health Coverage Day 2022 — Health Reform in Malaysia forum in Kuala Lumpur.

It is the first time that three former health ministers from different governments have shared the stage together.

Kamal Ariffin/TMI

Besides Khairy, the others were his predecessors Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Dr S Subramaniam.

During his time as health minister, a reform-minded Khairy worked on the Health White Paper before parliament was dissolved last October.

Among the four broad areas of reforms that were looked into when drafting the white paper was equitable access to basic medical services, sustainable financing of the healthcare sector, ensuring better governance and accountability, and creating a more proactive healthcare system.

Khairy had then said that the country’s healthcare system required structural changes, adding that the white paper was essential for “future proofing” the system.

The former Rembau MP said the Health White Paper must be tabled and discussed in parliament as well as to get the support of all MPs.

He said such a matter should not be politicised.

“It is political but don’t politicise it.

“I believe even the opposition will have very sympathetic ears to get this done,” he said.

Subramaniam, meanwhile, said that health should be removed from the political domain.

He also pushed for the formation of a permanent framework that could ensure the continuity of the reform process regardless of changes of government or ministers.

“Take it (health) out of political domain by making it something that is going to be owned in a bi-partisan approach and creating a kind of permanent structure which will ensure the continuity of the reform process immaterial of the frequent changes in ministers of health. This would enable them to continue.

“If we can actually put that process into place, then whatever it is, the Health White Paper, which we have been working on for the past year or so is actually a collection which is done during my time, during Dzulkelfy’s period, during Khairy’s period and even before us. It is an overall entity.

“So, implementing that will ensure addressing all those issues which we have in the health system.

“But the problem with the implementation is the political will and political structure. I hope we can create the political structure which will ensure continuity, immaterial of political changes,” he said.

Subramaniam said the political process becomes a main hindrance for reforms.

“Politics is needed for health but if these changes don’t have a positive impact on the health outcome, then it becomes a problem as we see now.

“Every time we want a reform, it is the political process that becomes a hindrance.

“Once we have a system that can address that and take it out of that, then I hope we can achieve reforms to some degree,” he said.

No time to delay

Dzulkefly, meanwhile, said it was important for the current unity government to move forward and bring about immediate reforms the healthcare system needs.

“I think there is no need to waste time as we have extensive studies and research on it.

“The time has come for us to reform because the people need it. Commitment and political will are required to get this done,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni, who also attended the forum today, said he would convey the messages by all former ministers to the current minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

“I will ensure that the message is clearly delivered to the minister and give her the space to understand all the contexts of the Health White Paper.

“We, at the Ministry of Health will also ensure that the white paper will be used for the best interest of the people,” he said.

The deputy minister also said that a special platform will be provided in the near future to enable former health ministers to channel their views and information to improve the health system in the country.

Lukanisman also said Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim ordered all ministries, including the health ministry, to work hard and not work in silos.

“The prime minister had instructed the cabinet to move away from the silo-ed approach, towards a multi-ministerial approach in addressing the various challenges faced by the rakyat,” he said. – TMI