nstKUALA LUMPUR: The Federation of Malaysian Consumers' Associations (Fomca) is urging the government to look into increasing its health expenditure to 7 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Fomca president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said an increase in spending, better budget management and reduction of corruption and leakages would enhance the public healthcare sector.

He lauded the Health Ministry for their handling of the Covid-19 crisis that was eased by the additional financial support given to them.

Marimuthu however said in normal, pre-Covid times, however, the healthcare system is overburdened and underfunded.

He said 65 per cent of the population used public healthcare services however only 45 per cent of this demographic was served by registered doctors, while 25 per cent of them were served by specialists.

"There is a clearly under-investment in pubic healthcare. Health expenditure is a mere 4.4 per cent of GDP, while the World Health Organisation suggests expenditures of up to 7 per cent of GDP," he said while quoting data made available to Fomca by the Health Ministry.

He said that among the three biggest challenges include the insufficient beds in hospitals which deny patients who need to be warded the urgent medical facilities and services that they are supposed to be provided with.

"This has severe consequences for low income consumers, for if they are unable to get access to public healthcare, are forced to go to private hospitals, which would severely affect their financial wellbeing.

"Patients also have to wait long periods to meet the specialist, due to shortage of specialists as well as lack of appropriate facilities."

"Thirdly, often due to no stock, consumers are directed to purchase their own medicines."

Marimuthu also said that it hoped that more effective regulatory measures are put in place to control prices in private hospitals.

"If private hospitals are more affordable, it could be a viable alternative not only for the wealthy but also for all Malaysians."

He said that their surveys found that private healthcare was exorbitant.

"What is worse, many consumers do not have medical insurance. In fact 38 per cent of consumers pay their hospital bills by out-of-pocket expenses, considered the most risky form of payment.

Furthermore, medical insurance premiums have been skyrocketing, making it unaffordable to low and middle income consumers.

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/598001/increase-health-expenditure-7pct-gdp-govt-told