Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 24 March 2020
While it is clear that public sector hospital professionals and their support staff are heroically working on the front line to save the lives of patients afflicted with COVID19, and other selfless Malaysians are contributing to alleviate the suffering of out-of-work families, one does not hear what roles 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 and this is affecting their current lives while others will be depleting their retirement funds which will impact their later lives.
In the best of times, private hospitals reap the benefits 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 one billion ringgit. 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 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. Every state will have at least one hospital that can provide isolation and treatment to patients,” said the PH government in January 2020. The PH government was too complacent and much needed preparation for the war on covid-19 was distracted by the power grabbing in both coalitions. That was the feeling of Malaysians who cursed: “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 that the private hospitals which have reaped enormous profits at the best of times could 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.