Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru

Monday, December 13, 2004

What a wasted


RM6m spent yearly on foreigners’ medical expenses


THE Government has to foot a bill of about RM6 million, and probably much more, every year in medical costs incurred by foreign workers in government hospitals.
This is because the Government is forced to bear healthcare costs when foreign workers are unable, or unwilling, to pay when they go to government hospitals.

Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon said due to the unrecorded number of foreign workers, the Government was unsure of the actual amount spent to treat them in government hospitals.

"There is no way of recovering the money. On humanitarian grounds, we still treat them and have to absorb medicine and surgery costs," he said, adding treatment for contagious diseases like malaria was also sought.

Because of their illegal status, they did not have insurance or legal papers, thus the Government was unable to trace them to pay up. As for legal workers, their employers were obliged to pay the hospital bills.

Lee, speaking in the Parliament lobby, said there were not many alternatives to solving the problem apart from the revised charges introduced at government hospitals for foreign workers in the middle of this year.

"The revision is one way of ensuring employers take care of their employees and that they take them to private clinics," he said.

On another matter, he said the Health Ministry's plan of charging the public for treatment at government hospitals would be implemented rationally, and that the plan was "a long way off" from being implemented.

"The overall fundamental policy has always been a free medical system.

"To move away from that would be a major shift which requires major consideration and study," he said.

He said the Government needed to ensure that it could bear the cost of the present system.

"Every year, the healthcare budget allocation is about RM7 or RM8 billion. We only get back about RM150 million. If we do not change the system, then we have to see whether we can sustain the cost," he said.

Earlier when replying to a supplementary question by Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading), Lee said the comment by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad was "merely a suggestion" and that the Government would maintain free healthcare services if it could afford it.

To another supplementary question by Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam), Lee said foreign workers were charged RM15 for outpatient treatment, RM40 for inpatient and RM50 for emergencies.

Each category was previously charged RM1, the same as Malaysians.

9T9: So can we call this, what a wasted...


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