‘No cuts in Health Ministry funds’

PUTRAJAYA: There is no decrease in the Budget 2021 allocation for the Health Ministry, says its secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min.

In a press briefing here yesterday, he said that despite the increase in government spending due to the Covid-19 pandemic, allocations to the Health Ministry for various public health needs would not take a back seat.

“Instead, overall allocations for the ministry under the just-tabled Budget 2021 have increased by 4.38%, from RM30.6bil for 2020 to RM31.94bil in 2021.

“From the total, RM27.22bil is set aside for operations and RM4.72bil for development.

“The development fund saw a good 77.32% increase from RM2.66bil in 2020 to RM4.72bil for 2021, while funding for operations dropped slightly from RM27.94bil in 2020 to RM27.22bil for 2021, ” he said.

The people’s focus, he said, should not be fixated on the slight decrease of RM720mil (2.57%) allocated for operations.

“We must first understand that Budget 2021 is structured slightly differently from the previous one.

“It is inaccurate to say that funding for the ministry has been slashed, as the expenditure for several health aspects has been streamlined and readjusted under different categories, ” said Dr Chen.

For example, beginning 2021, all allocations for medical supplies (such as medicine, vaccines, consumables and X-ray films) amounting to RM4.29bil for hospital pharmacies and health clinics (including dental clinics) have been transferred to the ‘government facility medical supply’ amounting to RM2.89bil.

“The drug laboratory and store privatisation concession is now placed under the ‘financial commitment’ detail.

“Also, a total of RM2.065bil in allocation for hospital support services and clinic support services is now under ‘development’, and no longer under operations.

“For instance, in 2020, nephrology received over RM252.1mil, with RM53.9mil for emolument and RM198.1mil for drugs and medical supplies.

“For 2021, only RM56.4mil is allocated for emolument because the remaining amount has been pooled under the government facility medical supply.

“The same principle applies to other aspects, ” he added.

The strategy, he said, was a step forward to better control and monitor allocations and expenditure in a more efficient manner.

With allocations for Health forming 9.9% of the RM322.5bil budget, Dr Chen said that the ministry had one of the largest shares of the pie.

“The annual budget allocation for the ministry has been increasing every year, for the past 10 years, from RM15.35bil in 2010 to RM30.6bil in 2020.

“This is a RM15bil increase in a decade, ” he said, adding that some health-related initiatives are also not directly placed under the Health Ministry.

Among them are the tax reduction initiatives for medical expenses and MySalam under the Finance Ministry, cervical cancer screening programme and mammogram test subsidy incentives under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, and the setting up of childcare centres for frontliners.

As the budget will be reviewed periodically, he said the government will address requests for additional funding brought about by emergencies.

Dr Chen noted that resources and funds to address other health concerns, such as the non-communicable diseases (NCD), would go on as usual despite Covid-19.

“The pandemic warrants unique attention because it affects people’s life and the economy.

“For the ministry, it involves additional allocation from the government, which is outside of the annual budget.

“There is no such thing as allocations for NCDs being reduced because of the pandemic. Plans for NCD will go on, ” he said, adding that the only aspect affected temporarily were on-ground activities following the movement control order.

Dr Chen said RM19mil has been allocated for the Agenda Nasional Malaysia Sihat programme next year to bring down NCDs, given that NCDs continue to increase yearly in addition to the ageing population.

“The problem must be seen within the context of both health and social well-being, as well as acknowledging the impact of the wider determinants of health, such as poverty, economic pressure, inequity and low health literacy.

“The ministry will continue to intensify efforts in promoting healthy lifestyles and regular screenings, as well as provide quality services in our healthcare facilities for people with NCDs such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and cancer.”

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