Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said, “Over the past decade, Malaysia’s public healthcare system, accessed by over 70 percent of the population, has had to deal with a catastrophic health burden of non-communicable diseases, new and re-emerging diseases such as polio and COVID-19, an ageing population and increased complexity and diversity of health needs including mental health. The pledges contained within the manifestos reflect the level of understanding, appreciation and commitment to addressing these issues. Overall, only Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional seem to get the urgency, while Barisan Nasional appears to want health issues to be in the rearview mirror, a bad dream needing to be forgotten.”“The Galen Centre previously identified 4 critical issues currently affecting the sustainability and resilience of Malaysia’s healthcare system, namely healthcare financing, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and ageing population. Political parties needed to respond to at least 3 to indicate that they are serious about health. Both PH and PN meet this requirement.“”Pledges on aged care in all three manifestos are certainly welcome as this is one area where Malaysia’s social protection system is ill prepared and arguably has failed to support and care for an ageing population. By 2030, at least one in 10 people will be 65 or older or surpassing 15% of the total population. Very little has been done to prepare, coordinate and provide essential support and specialised services for the aged such as disability and care, social and financial security systems, welfare services, and realistic retirement schemes. PH’s extensive pledges on aged care and the care economy overall demonstrate understanding of the urgency and gravity of the problem.”
“PH and PN have both mentioned mental health but are light on specifics. Mental health services need more investment to train and increase the number of healthcare professionals and support personnel in this field, not new buildings. The findings from the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 are staggering. 1 in 3 persons in Malaysia were suffering from at least one type of mental health disorder. Nearly one in 10 children aged between 10 and 15 years, and 8.4% of girls had mental health issues. As many as a quarter of adults experienced functional difficulties. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on mental health in this country has not been properly understood or described.”
“Unfortunately, in the area of healthcare financing, although all three political coalitions indicated commitments to increasing public health expenditure to at least 5% of GDP over the next 5 years, these targets appear to be empty promises. It is simply impossible to increase funding to those targets without reforms. PH’s version mentions healthcare financing reform but there is no accompanying commitment which would allow exploration of earmarking certain revenues such as from sin taxes, introduction of social health insurance, and other initiatives which would introduce and secure new funding for healthcare. BN and PN are totally silent on this. It simply isn’t enough to cut wastage, crack down on corruption, and hope that it is enough to bridge the gap between what we have today and these ambitious targets. This missing commitment implies business-as-usual for healthcare financing,” emphasised Azrul.
“If taken at face value, Barisan Nasional’s approach to health would be disastrous. The manifesto is missing many of the proposed necessary reforms championed by former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, which ironically seem to have been adopted into the PH edition. The crucial issues identified through the Health White Paper process such as dealing with the ongoing non-communicable disease crisis are missing. It does not even meet the standards of its own manifesto from 2018. One glaring problem: It has delegated aged care to non-government organisations by providing RM 105 million over 5 years, which is not only incredibly insufficient but also improper to expect NGOs to deliver essential care services to a population of millions. This is a government responsibility.”
“Many questions remain. Government hospitals, clinics and health facilities under continuous strain from increasing public demand and dependency, are encountering problems of decreasing numbers of healthcare workers, ageing infrastructure and equipment, insufficient funding, and public and political fatigue caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The quality and coverage of healthcare in Sabah and Sarawak remain inadequate for a landmass larger than Peninsular Malaysia. There is no mention of improving healthcare for the disabled.”
“Healthcare has rarely, if ever, been the focus of political debate in any election campaign, much less a general election. Many believe that health should not, in fact, be politicised. That should change. We must avoid taking our healthcare system for grant and expecting it to somehow sort itself out. This coming general election provides an opportunity for Malaysians to ask those running for office, not only their fixes for existing problems, but also their plans for the future of the country’s healthcare.”