Malaysian socialists lead protests against full-paying patient scheme

March 1, 2010 -- Malaysiakini -- The Malaysian government’s full-paying patient (FPP) scheme has again come under fire from the Coalition Against Health Service Privatisation, which held simultaneous pickets outside four public hospitals nationwide.

NONEIn the Klang Valley, short pickets by small groups were held at the Serdang and Sungai Buloh hospitals.

A similar protest took place outside the Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah Alor Setar, Kedah, and Hospital Sultan Ismail, Pandan, Johor.

At the Sungai Buloh hospital, Kota Damansara assemblyperson Dr Mohd Nasir Hasim, from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM, Parti Sosialis Malaysia), led about a dozen people in denouncing the scheme which the government had initiated in 2007.

According to Nasir, the FPP scheme pilot project in Hospital Selayang has proven detrimental to both doctors and patients.

“The specialists are keen on spending (time) and energy on treating private patients and neglect their responsibility to other patients who pay less. Some specialists are paid more through their involvement in FPP scheme”, he alleged.

Protest memorandum

NONEAfter the picket, Mohd Nasir submitted a protest memorandum outlining the coalition’s concerns and demands to hospital deputy director Dr Aminnudin Tauhid (left in blue).

Mohd Nasir said Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai failed to provide statistics to prove the benefits of the FPP scheme when quizzed on the matter in the Dewan Rakyat [Malaysia's lower house of parliament].

“He just said that the specialists and the patients are satisfied and therefore the health ministry had decided to expand the program to other hospitals with specialists”, said Mohd Nasir.

According to Mohd Nasir, 70% of Malaysians depend on public hospitals which house only 25% of the country’s specialist doctors, and many inexperienced doctors are forced to fill in the gap.

Mohd Nasir suggested that the health ministry not to adopt the FPP scheme in other hospitals until a proper study is performed.

NONEMohd Nasir (left) was accompanied by representatives of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit) and several municipal councillors. The protest at Serdang hospital was led by PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan.

Leafletting at hospital

Around 50 PSM members participated and gathered outside the hospital from noon to distribute flyers to public.

“We had distributed over 2000 flyers to passersby”, Arutchelvan said.

Only about five police personnel were seen observing the protest.

After 40 minutes, five representatives were given permission to go into the hospital to meet the deputy director to hand over the memorandum.

“We were told that the hospital director was not around, so we met with Dr Dinesh Raj, who assured us that he will bring this issue to the director”, Arutchelvan said, adding that the meeting took about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile Sungai Siput parliamentarian Dr D Michael Jeyakumar, also from the PSM, led 70 people to stage a protest at the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Alor Setar, Kedah.

“There were around 50 members of the special branch and police personnel at the scene”, Dr Jeyakumar said.

Twelve representatives were allowed to go into the hospital to hand over the memorandum to the hospital director Dr Juita Ghazalie.

“We also want doctors to be paid well, but such privatisation is not the way to go as the people will suffer”, Dr Jeyakumar explained.

Three Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) MPs were also present. They were Jerai MP Mohd Firdaus Jaafar, Pendang MP Mohd Hayati Othman and Padang Terap MP Mohd Nasir Zakaria.

NONEFinally, in Sultan Ismail, Pandan Hospital in Johor, 50 protesters were led by PSM member E Silvarajah.

Only about four members of the police force were seen observing the group while they handed out leaflets and brochures to the public.

“We handed over the memorandum to deputy director Dr Khatijah Abu Bakar who came outside to meet us”, Silvarajah said. “We are not against the government but this privatisation will only further burden the public and that it is not just.”