PUTRAJAYA: The proposed takeover of the National Heart Institute (IJN) by conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd has been postponed pending a study.
The study will be undertaken by the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, and the Finance and the Health Ministries, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.
Najib, who is also finance minister, said the cabinet decided on the deferment following reactions from various quarters to the proposed takeover.
“I want to clarify that the government only agreed in principle (to the takeover) on condition that IJN’s social responsibility would not be marginalised or reduced at all costs.
“There is also a need to explain that if IJN is taken over by Sime Darby, the government’s contributions towards operations at the institute will continue to be made, in the sense that it will continue to fulfil its social obligations.
The government, Najib said, would never neglect or sacrifice its social responsibility towards the people, especially poor heart patients.
“However, as the takeover proposal has led to various reactions, it has been postponed to enable the government, through the EPU and Health and Finance Ministries to undertake a comprehensive study so that whatever decision is made later will not cast any doubt, particularly towards IJN’s future in carrying out its social responsibility.
Najib said a decision would only be made once the study was completed. “It (study) may take a few months but this is not important.
“The most important thing is that whatever decision is made later must benefit the people and help develop IJN into a world-class heart institute. Our main emphasis is the interest of the rakyat.
Najib said the cabinet’s decision had nothing to do with the Kuala Terengganu by-election. “No, nothing whatsoever,” he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said the government would only allow the takeover if the company gave a guarantee that the poor and needy would be taken care of.
Abdullah said he understood the concerns of the people over the proposed privatisation.
Sime Darby’s interest in IJN had caused ripples of unease among many quarters, due to worries that fees would be increased when it is made private.
The fees for IJN patients are subsidised by the government. Built in 1992 at a cost of RM151.5 million, the institute has become the country’s premier institution for cardiac treatment.
The hospital also underwent a RM230 million expansion programme last year to purchase more equipment and to build a new wing.
A spokesman for the company said that “Sime Darby Berhad stands guided by Ã‚Â the decision of the cabinet and awaits further instructions from the government”.
Sime Darby’s healthcare flagship is the Subang Jaya Medical Centre.
Asked whether banks and financial institutions would continue to lower their interest rates in view of economic slowdown, Najib said he did not want to comment as his policy was to allow the federal bank to decide on the level of the interest rate.
“Bank Negara will keep me informed of their decision. There are many factors to be taken into account before deciding on the level of interest rate. These include inflation, growth prospects and capital outflow. It is not based on one single factor.
Source:Ã‚Â New Straits Times