Health Ministry pledges swift financial aid for poor patients


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 13 Nov 2003

BY AUDREY EDWARDS

KUALA LUMPUR: It takes two days to approve a patient’s application for aid from the National Health Welfare Fund, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Ariff. 

Responding to claims by Umno Youth that red tape was making it difficult for poor patients to obtain swift financial aid for medical treatment, Dr Mohamad Taha said:  

“If the forms are complete, then we can make a decision within 48 hours on whether he should collect donations or go straight to the hospital for treatment. For urgent cases, they go straight to the hospital.  

“There are many cases like that. We tell those who can wait to try and get donations from the public as well,” he told reporters at the ministry yesterday. 

Dr Mohamad Taha pointed out that the longest it took to approve a case was two weeks because confirmation and cross-checking of information was needed. 

Citing a bone marrow transplant as an example, he said it took time to check whether a university hospital could do the procedure or whether there was a matching donor. 

“But we can give confirmation to the patient and then they wait for the time. Most times, they are patient. And if they are dissatisfied, they can see me or the health development director for clarification.” 

Last Friday, Umno Youth Public Complaints Unit head Datuk Subahan Kamal said red tape within the fund was making it difficult for poor patients to obtain swift financial aid for their medical conditions and that government doctors should be allowed to refer patients directly to the health welfare fund. 

He pointed out that “almost 100%” of applications came from government doctors and the ministry was still bent on cutting further bureaucracy for the fund. 

The current procedure, he said, involved doctors or nurses referring patients to medical social workers.  

Application forms are available at government hospitals. 

On the kind of help that patients could receive from the fund, he said it was to pay for treatment of needy patients in non-government hospitals, buying medication not available at government hospitals, medical equipment and treatment that did not go against medical ethics. 

“We do not provide money for those who go to private hospitals first and then come to us when they cannot afford to pay. Falsified information will also terminate the application,” he said. 

The money would be channelled straight to the hospital providing treatment. 

The fund is managed by the health welfare fund committee headed by Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng.  

From September last year to Oct 31 this year, the fund received 270 requests, of which 215 were approved, 34 needed further details from the patient while ministry specialists’ verification was needed for 11 cases.  

There are 10 applications pending approval from the Medical Board. 

The cases borne by the fund were 11 at local hospitals and one in Adelaide, Australia. 

The most expensive case was at RM160,000 and the fund had paid out some RM822,000. There is no ceiling on the money given for a patient.  

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