PETALING JAYA: The RM32.4bil set aside under Budget 2022 for the Health Ministry, as well as RM4bil allotted specifically for the handling of Covid-19, will not only focus on the continuing battle with the virus but will also be used to improve general public health, say health groups.
The allocation, they added, will also improve the welfare of frontliners.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai said it appreciates the RM4bil earmarked for Covid-19 management, particularly the mass immunisation programme and capacity building of the public health services.
The tax relief for individuals and tax deduction for employers over the cost of self-procured Covid-19 vaccines, said Dr Koh, is also a good move although vaccines should still be provided free for those in the B40 income group.
“The outsourcing of services to private hospitals as well as hospitals under the various ministries is also a good move and ought to be expanded.
“The government’s plan to procure antiviral medication for diseases due to various viruses should also look at medical therapeutics, which are low cost but equally effective,” he added.
The continuation of the National Health Agenda as announced under the budget also means that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have not been forgotten, said Dr Koh, calling the decision for the clinical management of rare diseases in Malaysia an “additional delight”.
“We have been talking about extending the sugar tax as well as imposing excise duties on nicotine-based vape liquids or gels and it is noted that this is being taken care of.
“However, it will be good if eventually, such excise duties are channelled towards the budget needed to manage diseases related to sugar consumption and cigarette smoking or vaping,” he said.
On the extension of between two and four years for contract-appointed medical, dental and pharmaceutical officers, Dr Koh said it is to give them an opportunity to specialise.
“The allocation of RM100mil towards the sponsorship of specialisation courses to benefit 3,000 medical and dental officers is also a welcome piece of news,” he said.
The tax relief for psychiatric treatment and psychological counselling will also go a long way in managing the mental health of our nation, added Dr Koh.
Welcoming the allocation, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh described it as “good and timely” as the country transitions into the endemic phase of Covid-19.
He also welcomed the RM4bil allocation for Covid-19 management, saying that the strengthening of public healthcare will be good for patients who require care in public hospitals.
Dr Kuljit said the APHM also supports the excise duty to be imposed on sugary premixed drinks as well as on nicotine-based gel or liquid products.
“We support this tax as it will have an impact in reducing chronic NCDs like diabetes and lung diseases which have direct relationships to these substances.
“The cost of treating NCDs is very high – both in public and private hospitals. Such increase in taxes on these substances will create a healthier population and reduce healthcare cost,” he said.
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah noted that the allocation for healthcare in Budget 2022 only increased by 1.6% from the previous Budget, which was RM31.94bil.
“What is consoling is that another RM4bil has been allocated for Covid-19 management, which is separate from the RM32.4bil for the Health Ministry.
“If things do not turn out as predicted, we can always have a mid-term budget.”