No IJN privatization – apply IJN success to government hospital heart centres

by Balwant Singh

I read with great interest regarding plans to privatize the National Heart Institute announced recently. As a former heart patient, who had surgery performed in Penang Hospital Heart Centre, another government facility offering cardiac services, I would like to clarify a few points regarding this issue.

Firstly , the main reason IJN has been successful is the fact that it has managed to attract and keep a group of dedicated cardiologists and surgeons, who continued to develop the service and subsequently contribute to the success story it actually is today.

This is possible because IJN has managed to escape the long bureaucratic arms and clutches of the civil service which more often becomes a hindrance and certainly a push factor for doctors leaving for the more lucrative private sector.

By being a semi private entity, decisions for advancement of services, introduction of new treatment etc, training and even better remunerations for staff are more readily made, unlike the usual delays and difficulties encountered within the Ministry of Health framework.

Secondly , it has to be pointed out that services in IJN for civil servants and their families are borne by the government. Therefore, IJN is actually not providing any free healthcare, but instead charges the government normal market rates for decent cardiac care.

Although mechanisms for some subsidization do exist, it is reasonable to conclude that the average Joe Public, like me who is not in the civil service and without any company guarantee letter will be asked to pay for treatment, and more often will be referred to government cardiac centres in Serdang , Penang , Johor Bharu and Kuching, Sarawak if he is unable to afford it.

Treatment will be subsidized however, if a government hospital refers the patient to IJN for some specialized treatment not available within the Ministry hospitals. In conclusion , the taxpayer’s money is still funding IJN in a huge way.

In the last 10 years, the Ministry of Health to its credit have invested heavily in terms of finance and manpower in setting up its own heart centres , notably in Penang , Serdang and Johor Bharu where patients were finally able to undergo almost free open heart surgery.

I am personally very thankful to cardiac surgeons in Penang Hospital who demonstrated fantastic dedication and extreme professionalism in rendering their services.

Centres such as this, although blessed with great infrastructure, huge allocations and training facilities failed to match the success of IJN due to perennial problems of staff shortage with senior surgeons and cardiologists leaving for private sector due to slow promotions and low salaries .

They however have huge potential to match IJN provided they manage to keep their senior doctors with better perks and remuneration, similar to those provided for the IJN specialists.

I am puzzled on why nobody from Ministry of Health, including the DG and his deputy did not respond to this issue by clarifying that the Ministry already has its own heart centres which are up and running. Instead the Minister, albeit supporting the IJN privatisation , chose to remain silent to the fact that hospitals such as Penang GH do have established heart centres and have been around for more then 10 years .

I therefore fail to understand the reasons stated by the government in privatizing IJN especially with taxpayers most likely continuing to fund treatment. Privatisation is not always a better option for patients.

Sime Darby on the contrary will benefit from the guaranteed number of civil servants seeking cardiac care , especially with Ministry of Health heart centres still having severe manpower shortage. Like all privatized projects , profits are still the main objective , and contracts are usually discovered to be astonishingly lopsided, years after they have been signed.

The government should instead maintain IJN as it is , and even learn from the IJN success formula and use it to further develop and consolidate existing government hospital heart centres into regional centres of excellence similar to IJN but closer to the public . As always , the patient’s interest and not the shareholder’s should come first in every deal involving health care .

  1. #1 by monsterball on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 11:16 am

    Great to have a man like Balwant Singh..explaining in such simple clear English language for all young Malaysians to read and learn.
    The part I like how misleading to think…government patients are getting free treatments..
    It’s paid in full by the government…..yet UMNO never reveal all these facts.

  2. #2 by iskandarjohan on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 1:57 pm

    Happy New Year to you Uncle Lim,

    Monsterball because the government paid the fee thats what it is called A FREE TREATMENTS.. please open your mind dont just condemend everything for the sake of comdeming like A FEW PERSON WHO THINK THAT EVERYTHING THEY SAY IS RIGHT..

    And please in your next article for the 2009 please please please tell us all how we can improve our economic situation..and plus if DAP is for ALL MALAYSIAN why you dont guard the MALAY’S interest???

    And dont you ever QUESTIONS my religion as i dont questions yours..!! Anything to do with my religions is for us MUSLIM..

    And for IJN and the Government Hospital Heart Center, yes i also opposed the take over,but for you not knowing the existance of the Heart Center is your fault.. DAP should be the one who must keep on INFORMING the people who VOTE for you the existance of those center, and yes the Ministry of Health should be blame also but still its doesnt ends there. It is your abligation as OUR MP to inform US..

    So Unc Lim for year 2009 please make DAP healhty to everybody..

  3. #3 by monsterball on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 3:07 pm

    iskandarjohan…Govt paid for the treatment… from what money?
    Don’t twist words! It’s not free if money change hands for something!
    And th money is OURS! Why should our money be paid to only govt. servants? Why not …to all Malaysians?
    How to improve economy your say?
    Great question from one…who knows the country is being rojak by. UMNO for more than 28 years….and he expects me to answer that question?
    Go to Malaysiakini and read more bad news.
    But as a businessman…..I will find the root cause and sack everyone…put some crooks into jail…and start all over again.
    My strength is plenty money available….plus stand by ..lots of able assistants…and with that…..change for the better is fact not hard…yet swift….plenty good results.
    I am not a DAP member…get it very clear..but no one will I admire and respect more than DAP….period.
    To sum up what you are saying…there are plenty more…what UMNO had done…and gave no replies to many many questions asked.
    Bottom line….when they are corrupted to the core…managing the country with race and religion dirty politics…’s a sick sick country…that suits UMNO… It’s their …divide to rule…even creating third class Malays..that we must vote them out… next election. It’s as simple as that.
    And DAP cannot make the country healthy and well…if Iskandarjohan and thousands like not support DAP.
    Talk is cheap… you are supporting Malaysian Malaysia.
    Just want to conclude…that all religions are good.
    It’s people….applying mind control…. and not free the mind…that is evil.

  4. #4 by raven77 on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 5:17 pm

    Poor…Joe Public…IJN is milking tax payer’s money when treatment actually costs less then half in reality……….Joe public sees it as free…..but tax payers are paying for their treatment, to UEM, Daim, etc through the various mark ups in medicine , consumables, building costs, equipment..etc…….Malaysia truly boleh……this “national institution” should not have been corporatised in the first place……it is just another GLC like MAS, Proton, Tenaga, etc…where it has become a conduit to ransack this country………….

  5. #5 by hadi on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 5:43 pm

    More money should be allocated to this institution and not spending on military equipment such as Eurocopter that do not serve the rakyats.
    Health Care as compared to military ware, which one you chose YB?.IF HEALTH CARE WHY THE RECENT BUDGET ALLOCATED TO DEFENSE ie the third higest in the recent debated bill?
    Someone making money again !!!!!!!!!guess who???

  6. #6 by Damocles on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 9:53 pm

    The simple fact is that the BN government has been privatising all the money earning (profitable) institutions and retain those that are not.
    To paraphrase – Why should institutions that are WELL RUN & PROFITABLE be privatised?
    Shouldn’t the fruits from organisations that are nutured with public funds go to the public?
    Why let Sime Darby just walk in and pluck the fruit?
    To top that, if the privatised entities fail, the government steps and bail them out!!
    Can anyone make sense all this?
    Remember, it’s your money that the government is squandering!

  7. #7 by drngsc on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 11:54 pm

    Enough said. Although I can understand why some are protesting about the privatisation ( read “piratisation “), so be it. IJN did not meet her objectives anyway. Please read my long reply in Let Sime Darby take over. Just hope that they pay market value for it.

  8. #8 by anna brella on Thursday, 1 January 2009 - 4:21 am

    Wishing everyone on here a happy and successful New Year 2009!

    Expect 2009 will be the year to consolidate and build further on the tremendous achievements for good change gained in 2008.

    Wishing good luck to everyone now engaged in the good fight for peaceful democratic change for the betterment of ALL Malaysians.

    “Imagine Power To The People” John Lennon.

  9. #9 by mauriyaII on Thursday, 1 January 2009 - 9:06 pm

    On the whole privatisation has not brought about good returns to the rakyat. It has only benefited the companies that took over those public utilities.

    Under the “piratization” process initiated by the great Mamakthir to help his cronies, public utilities such as Telekoms, Tenaga, Postal services, KTM, etc have been hiking up their rates as and when they feel their profits were not up to the mark. Post Malaysia has become a sundry shop and a commission agent. If there is one privatised body that is grossly incompetent and inefficient, it must be Post Malaysia.

    Why should IJN be privatised in the first place? Whenever a public service provider is doing well, the greedy corporate companies are like vultures to prey on them with the assistance of the ministries concerned and the ever greedy politicians out to make a quick killing.

    Sime Darby which is giant corporate entity has the financial standing to set up another specialized hospital like IJN. Why isn’t it doing just that instead of taking over IJN which is doing a fantastic service to the public?

    The government should carefully weigh all the pros and cons before handing over IJN to Sime Darby or any other interested party.

  10. #10 by megaman on Friday, 2 January 2009 - 9:27 am

    Only in Malaysia that sustainable reputable and profitable government ventures are sold off to private organizations.

    Unlike the more logical practice of getting external assistance or releasing of non-performing or toxic ventures and assets, this is like slaughtering or selling off a goose that lay golden eggs.

    The only logical reason I can think behind such a decision is kickbacks and commissions for the relevant parties.

    Makes me sick and disgusted when the lives of common folk are sold for dirty profits like this.

  11. #11 by ktteokt on Saturday, 3 January 2009 - 2:26 pm

    They have privatized electricity supply, water supply, telephone service, TV stations, highways, sewage treatment and so many other services which are essential to the people and now they are thinking of privatizing even the National Heart Centre. What will they think of next? Will they want to privatize Parliament as well? Parliament Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.? Or the Prime Minister’s Department as “Jabatan Perdana Menteri Sdn. Bhd.? Or perhaps even the royal throne of Malaysia as “DYMM Sdn. Bhd.”?

  12. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 5 January 2009 - 11:43 pm

    If you study carefully the motive of ‘priratization’ it is aimed at ENSLAVING all Malaysians. It equals ‘colonization’ which the mighty super-ego used to condemn whenever it suits him to arouse his Bangsa! With piratization the cost of such services will continue to grow at the rate already fixed. This means inflation is guaranteed to increase every year!
    Our neigbour just reduced the electrical power rate by 25%, and our TNB has decided to ride on the ealier increase! Eventually all these services will be piratized and all Malaysians will be ever indebted to the Gomen who will tell the nation , things are cheap! Cheaper than Japan! Cow head, what is Japan’s per capital?
    So long that there is an opportunity to get quick cash, all services willl be piratized! You just wait!!!

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