From the moment I took office as the FMSA President, I have made a promise to deliver the best that I can. Alhamdullilah, many of the activities have been running well. All this is important. But even as we’ve made progress, we know that the road to prosperity remains long and it remains difficult. And we also know that essential step on our journey is to control the spiraling cost of health care in Malaysia and to ensure quality service delivery to all citizens.
When it comes to the cost of our health care, then, the status quo is unsustainable. So reform is not a luxury; it is a necessity. When I hear people say, well, why we need the reform, our health care system is okay? Many of us with MOH are not bothered about this issue and too complacent. I like to remind people that it would be lovely to be able to defer these issues, but we can’t. I know there’s been much discussion about what reform would cost, and rightly so. This is a test of whether we — Malaysians — are serious about holding the line on new spending and restoring financial regulation.
But let there be no doubt — the cost of inaction is greater. If we fail to act and you know this because you see it in happening in our practices and the private GP practices. If we fail to act, the insurance premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Malaysians — all of which will affect our practice.
And if we fail to act, government (MOH) spending will grow over the coming decades. It will, in fact, eventually grow larger than what our government spends on anything else today. It’s a scenario that will swamp our federal and state budgets, and impose a vicious choice of either unprecedented tax hikes, or overwhelming deficits, or drastic cuts in our federal and state budgets.
It is not easy to agree upon the need for reform or what shape it would take. There is always fierce opposition fueled by some interest groups and lobbyists — opposition that has used fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to their political agenda. Even though it seem now the topic is not openly being talked, it is just because the general election is near and it is likely to be made into political agenda. However the Technical Working Groups are still having their work in progress.
So don’t think that you are not involved, we need to come forward and coming together out of recognition that while reform will take everyone in our health care community to do their part. Everybody is going to have to pitch in and ultimately, everybody will benefit.
Building a health care system that allows us to be physicians instead of administrators and accountants; a system that gives Malaysians the best care at the lowest cost; a system that eases up the pressure on businesses, create more jobs, make decent take-home wages, and growing our economy more every year. Eventually to stop spending tax money to support an unsustainable system, and start investing that money in innovations and advances that will make our health care system and our economy stronger.
We all have a role to play whether we are directly involved in the healthcare reform or not. Among the step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and for the health of our children. It means eating a balance and healthy diet and to combat obesity, going in for pap smear, mammogram or colon cancer screening etc. It means quitting smoking. It means going for a run or a brisk walk, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.
Building a health care system that promotes prevention rather than just managing diseases will require all of us to do our parts. It will take doctors telling their client/patients what risk factors should be avoided and what preventive measures should be pursued. MOH also has to step up its efforts to advance the cause of healthy living. Five of the costliest illnesses and conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease, strokes and cancer can be prevented. And yet only a fraction of every health care Ringgit goes to prevention or public health. And that’s starting to change with an investment we’re making in prevention and wellness programs that can help to avoid disease that harm our health and the health of our economy.
We may not be involved in many of the other steps but we need to follow the progress and perhaps contribute if you have the opportunity, I am convinced we can bring spending down, bring quality up; we can save of millions of Ringgits on health care costs while making our health care system work better for patients and all health care providers. And when we align the interests of patients and doctors, then we’re going to be in a good place.
We need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first; how to let doctors focus on practicing medicine; how to encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines and scale back the practice of defensive medicine. Because our health care system is so complex and medicine is always evolving, we need to find ways to continually evaluate how we can eliminate waste, reduce costs, and improve quality. We need to keep ourselves continuously up-dated and involve in training other doctors/team members and doing good quality research too.
I am sure we don’t want our children to speak of a crisis in Malaysian medicine 50 years from now. We don’t want them to be suffering from spiraling costs that we did not curtail, or sicknesses that we did not cure. We don’t want them to be burdened with massive deficits we did not curb or a worsening economy that we did not rebuild. We want them to benefit from a health care system that works for all of us; where families can have good access for quality medical care; where parents are talking to their kids and getting them to get regular checkups, and testing themselves for preventable ailments; where parents are feeding their kids healthier food and kids are exercising more; where patients are spending more time with their doctors, and
doctors have access to the medical information and latest research they’ll ever want to know to meet patients’ needs; where multidisciplinary team can all work together to treat a single human being.
Lastly, FMSA will be organizing the World Family Doctor this year, date will be informed later. Not to forget please block your diary for the 17th Malaysian Family Medicine Conference which will be held at Zenith Hotel, Kuantan from 4-7th July 2013.
Visit the conference website:
Wishing you all the best in 2013!
Dr Mastura Ismail