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Public or private hospitals? The choice is yours

Posted on February 18, 2011, Friday

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the significant investment from the government on public healthcare facilities, quite a number of people still prefer to get treatment for their medical problems at private healthcare institutions.

The question is why? According to medical practitioner Dr Y Foong, there are several reasons on why some people choose private hospitals for medical treatment.

“Some people do not like the long queues at public hospitals.There can still be long delays before treatment is available.For some reasons, they may not be satisfied or happy with the treatment given at public hospitals.Sometimes they want a second opinion on their medical problems,” he said.

Businessman Abdul Rahman Bakar, who prefers to seek treatment at private hospitals has this to say: “By going to private hospitals, it gives me fast access to treatment.

I also have the choice on when I want to be treated and I can choose which consultant or specialist that I prefer to see,” he said.

Information technology consultant Steven Lim agrees with the views of Abdul Rahman.

He said treatment at private hospitals usually can be done quickly while consultations and appointments take place at better times to suit the patients.

“In private hospitals, you can recover from a major operation in a comfortable and private environment.

Your family and friends can visit you with few restrictions,” he said.

Nowadays, many people may prefer private hospitals because their employer offers private health insurance as a benefit at the work place.

There are many different types of private health insurance, right from the family plan to the specialist cover.

“One of the first things an insured patient should do is to check with the insurance company that they are covered for the necessary procedure or treatment.

“They should also check whether they are covered for outpatient consultation or tests,” said consumer and social activist Fatimah Mansur, adding that most private health insurance policies do not cover patients for their pre-existing medical conditions such as chronic long term conditions that cannot be cured.

“It is good for you to contact your insurance company to check that the treatments are covered,” said Fatimah.

“It is too expensive,” said K K Wong, a retailer who wished to be known as Kay, when asked whether he prefers to go to private hospitals instead of public healthcare institutions.

Kay said the government had spent billions of Ringgit to provide and improve the medical healthcare facilities in the country.

“The government had spent a lot in terms of healthcare facilities for the people.

Of course if you are looking for comfort like rooms equipped with televisions, then this is not found in public hospitals.

“But hospitals are for sick people to get treatment, if you want to watch television then it is better to stay home,” he said.

Kay said the public should tolerate the long queues at public hospitals.

“Queues to get consultation and medicine or the wait to be warded are normal.

After all you are paying much less (than private hospitals),” Kay added.

A retired physician, M Anthony, said working in a government medical facility (hospital) is something that he is always proud of.

“During the colonial and post-Merdeka years, the medical facilities and infrastructure were inadequate and limited.

Not anymore now. Facilities at government hospitals in the country are sophisticated and world class,” said Anthony who graduated as a doctor from a medical college in Ireland in the early 1950s.

Anthony said public hospitals are the jewels of Malaysia’s healthcare system.

“They are easy to get bad names but are often models of clinical excellence.

They can be the place that patients prefer to go to for treatment,” he said.

The government hospitals have the country’s best healthcare equipment and facilities apart from having specialists in the field.

Anthony said the main drawback is the shortage of staff in public hospitals.

“Actually there should be enough nurses, doctors , physiotherapists and other medical personnel at government hospitals but the patients that seek treatment there are simply too many.That reflects that many members of the public prefer to go to public healthcare institutions,” he said.

However when the number of patients that sought treatment at public hospitals is ‘overwhelmingly’ too many when compared to the number of medical staff available, then the workload becomes heavy.

Teacher V Vasugi has this to say: “The public hospitals are always there for us.

This alone is a reason to honour them. That they deliver excellent medical care to one and all should make us proud,” she said.

The government provided civil servants and its retired staff free treatment at government hospitals and this the reason why many still seek treatment at public healthcare institutions.

“The government gives free treatment at its hospitals for public servants and their family.

“This is nothing heard of in other nations,” said Ahmad Kassim, who had retired from the Malaysian diplomatic service.

Recently this writer had to be warded at the orthopaedics ward of a medical centre here.

The nurses, doctors and attendants of the ward were very professional in their care.

For instance, when the ‘call bell’ was pressed when assistance was needed, the nurses appeared almost instantly to render help.

The housemen, medical officers and specialists worked almost round-the-clock.

This writer discovered that excellence and professionalism are still the domain of public hospitals, which are the jewels in the Malaysian healthcare system. — Bernama

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