1. Thank you for inviting me to the 50th Anniversary of the Malaysian Medical Association dinner tonight. The medical profession has made remarkable progress in the five decades since the MMA was first established. Fifty years ago there was not a single medical school in the country; today there are 27 medical colleges, both public and private providing almost 4,000 places annually.
2. The healthcare services have also come a long way. Data compiled by the World Health Organisation show that the overall performance of the Malaysian health care system is remarkably good. One indicator, the “Health Adjusted Life Expectancy” at birth, is comparable to that of industrialised countries. Malaysia’s health care system achieves these high standards at rather relatively low cost.
3. Despite these achievements and in keeping with our guiding philosophy of 1Malaysia: People First, Performance Now, the Government is pushing ahead to further improve the quality of services to the rakyat. We are aware of the ever increasing demands for better and improved healthcare services. The government will do its level best to provide the services. Infact quality healthcare is an integral part of the New Economic Model which outlines the government’s aim of providing better quality of life, not only through higher incomes, but quality healthcare and social support, above all quality healthcare which is accessible to all rakyat and income groups.
4. Currently some 70 per cent of Malaysia’s population lives in urban areas resulting in increased demand for healthcare services in these areas. Those living in cities, especially the urban poor, should not be denied access to quality healthcare services. The 1Malaysia clinics have been launched to cater to some of their needs. These are designed to provide quick and easy access to affordable healthcare, where treatment for minor ailments is available for One Ringgit. These clinics are increasingly popular. As of 4th July, a total of 644,315 patients have received treatment from the 50 1Malaysia Clinics throughout the country. Before implementing the 1Malaysia clinics, adequate studies were done and there is an ongoing assessment of the quality of service provided. At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health for implementing the fifty 1Malaysia clinics in record time. More 1Malaysia clinics will be opened under the Tenth Malaysia Plan. Further improvement to healthcare services in the rural areas will also be undertaken.
5. The 1Malaysia clinics complement the existing rural and suburban network of health clinics. These Klinik Kesihatan provide access to basic primary healthcare services in the rural areas and more than 90 per cent of the population has access to these facilities within a 5-kilometre radius.
6. The needs and demands of those in the lower income levels cannot be overlooked. In keeping with the People First, Performance Now approach the government is exploring various options to provide access to quality and affordable primary health care to all Malaysians. The latest initiative by the government is to launch the 1Malaysia Mobile Clinic in the form of a bus, this is to allow for medical treatment and even minor operation to be done onboard. The whole idea is that some remote areas which are not adequately served by the existence of a rural clinic can be served by these mobile clinics. I hope that the concept of the mobile clinic can be launched in the near future. And I believe with the launch of the 1Malaysia Mobile Clinics more and more people living in the rural areas, traditional kampongs, estates and new villages will have access to better quality healthcare.
7. At the same time, those who can afford to pay have access to private sector facilities. And to cater to the increased demand from the more affluent segments of society, the private sector has stepped up to the plate by providing a range of medical facilities. Currently there are 273 private hospitals and 130 government hospitals in the country.
8. In line with the government’s aspirations to move into the high income bracket, it is necessary for Malaysians, including those in the medical profession, to upgrade their technical and managerial skills. Medicine is an ever evolving field and it is important for practitioners to continuously upgrade their knowledge and skills. Here the MMA can play a role in ensuring that it’s members attend adequate and appropriate continuous medical education (CME) activities. This will help equip members with the most up-to-date knowledge and skills and increase demand for their services, including that from overseas.
9. Even now an increasing number of foreigners are seeking treatment in Malaysia. Between 2006 and 2008 more than one million foreign patients sought medical attention in Malaysia with medical receipts of about RM800 million. This growth is testimony to the capabilities, the quality services and care provided to patients by medical professionals in Malaysia, including MMA members.
10. With increased affluence, an ageing and increasingly mobile population, medical and healthcare services are a growth industry. The Tenth Malaysia Plan identifies healthcare as one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs). Targets have been set and concrete actions to drive economic growth in these areas have been drawn up. The aim is to create a seamless and integrated healthcare system, incorporating a professional, competitive healthcare travel industry and state of the art medical technology.
11. The plan is to boost health tourism and make Malaysia the preferred healthcare destination in the region. It also aims to grow revenue from healthcare travel by about 10 per cent per annum. Among the strategies to achieve the target include;
a. Fostering strategic alliances among local and foreign healthcare service providers, travel organizations and medical insurance groups to provide a more integrated and comprehensive package of services to healthcare travellers.
b. Encourage more private hospitals to seek accreditation with international healthcare accreditation bodies. Currently 35 private hospitals in the country participate in health tourism programmes, and
c. Promote investment in and utilisation of high-end medical technology to increase efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness, and intensify and coordinate professional activities to strengthen the Malaysian healthcare brand globally. In this regards, I hope more promotional activities can be undertaken so that more and more people around the world will be increasingly aware of the medical facilities that we can provide to them.
12. The focus on medical tourism does not mean that the government will neglect the healthcare and medical needs of Malaysians. We have set the target of achieving a ratio of one doctor to 600 people by the year 2015 from the current ratio of one doctor to 900 patients. I believe the ministry has been bolder by setting new KPI to achieve a ratio of one doctor to 400 people by the year 2020. This is apparently commensurate with the situation in some developed nations.
13. In fact, there are more and more medical students now in the country and overseas than ever before, and the numbers are increasing. And I hope an increasing number of people from the medical profession will find working in government hospitals a good and attractive proposition. Bearing in mind some of the policy changes that the government has implemented, for example, the recent announcement that I made on behalf of the government whereby a specialist after 9 years can attain the grade UD54 and medical officers after 12 years will achieve the same grade of MD54. I am aware that some senior UD54 doctors and specialists are saying that now the junior has caught up with them, why can’t we do something for them? So, it’s a never ending process of looking into ways and means of making this profession even more attractive so that people would want to stay and work with the government, and then we can provide better quality healthcare to the rakyat.
14. The Talent Corporation that the government will launch shortly will seek out specialists and encourage them to return to serve at home. Efforts are being made to have a system in place that allows every Malaysian to realize his or her maximum potential and provide the quality service needed. Specialised organizations and associations, such as the MMA, can also assist in encouraging talent to return and offer their skills, services and expertise to the nation.
15. And with that, I thank you.