IJN rebuts Yahya’s claims

KUALA LUMPUR: Almost 80% of patients seeking treatment at the National Heart Institute (IJN) are public patients, and it certainly does not lean towards profit-driven private care, says IJN CEO Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub (pic).

Some 370,000 patients sought treatment at IJN last year, with 18,000 seeking inpatient treatment, 4,000 heart surgeries and 10,000 cardiology procedures (such as angiogram and stenting), and 80% of the patients were public patients, he said.

Public patients are those referred there by hospitals and clinics under the Health Ministry.

“To say that we are losing focus is not true,” said Dr Mohd Azhari in response to recent comments by IJN’s pioneer surgeon Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang, who urged the Health Ministry to take over the running of the hospital from the Finance Ministry.

Dr Yahya, who was involved in the corporatising of the institution in 1992, said IJN should be a Health Ministry Incorporated product that is based on service, rather than profit, as he has concerns the hospital is now leaning towards private care.

Dr Mohd Azhari said IJN was set up as a corporation and placed under the Finance Ministry since its inception in 1992.

The government-owned hospital has Joint Commission International accreditation, with 200 quality indicators to monitor every month, which means it offers care and service of international standards.

The waiting time for cardiology procedures is within a week for both public and private patients, heart surgeries (such as a bypass) is an average of six weeks for public patients, and one to three weeks for private patients, he noted.

In comparison, he said public patients in Australia or Britain wait three to four months for the surgery.

Public patients going to IJN get appointments to see a doctor (new cases) within two weeks from the time they get a referral letter while private patients can walk in, he said.

“We see patients 70% of the time within 90 minutes both in the public and private clinics,” he said.

Dr Mohd Azhari said IJN has become an iconic centre in Malaysia because of the way it has been organised, which is under the Finance Ministry, that allows it to be independent and chart its own course.

“Our mandate is clear – to be a centre of excellence and provide high-quality care to the public. We have not shrunk from the responsibility,” he said.

He also said being a corporatised body allows IJN to seek different sources of funding which benefits the public and private-paying patients alike.

Asked about medical tourism, he said it is a government policy for IJN, being the flagship hospital for cardiology, to be a leading heart centre to increase revenue and be less dependent on the government.

Dr Mohd Azhari said IJN ploughed back the revenue into education, training, investment in new equipment, retaining talent and expanding its services.

It also contributed RM3.5mil to RM5mil yearly to IJN Foundation and the funds are used to subsidise poor patients.

“This is a sustainable model. Those who can pay will pay and help cross-subsidise poor patients,” he said, adding that if IJN becomes a government hospital, the government would have to bear most of the operational costs.

He continued: “We also seek collaborations with corporate institutions.

“Last year, Permodalan Nasional Bhd donated RM30mil to help us buy cutting-edge equipment for our imaging centre, and as a result IJN could offer the imaging service at a lower cost.”

He also revealed that 35% of IJN’s revenue came from private patients (20% of cases), 60% from the federal government and 5% from state governments, statutory bodies and corporations.

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