KUALA LUMPUR: An opposition lawmaker today called on fellow Parliamentarians to support his move in asking the government to allocate seven per cent of the GDP towards health care.
DAP's Klang MP Charles Santiago said while the government's effort in reducing the price of medicine for hepatitis C through the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement is commendable, it is now time for Putrajaya to provide more support for cancer patients.
He said this can be done if the government transfer some funds from the Prime Minister's Department (PMD) and Defence Ministry to the Health Ministry.
According to Santiago, he had filed a motion on Monday under Section 55(3) and 57(2) of the Parliament Standing Order for the funds to be transferred.
He pointed out that an increase of seven per cent of the GDP for health care from the current four per cent is vital as the recommendation was made by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"My proposal would require a transfer of RM12.4 billion from PMD and RM8.3 billion from Defence Ministry.
"This would give a further injection of RM20.7 billion to the Health Ministry's existing budget allocation, consistent with the seven per cent of GDP recommendation of the WHO," he told a press conference at the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.
Last year, Health Minister Datuk Seri S Subramaniam said insufficient funds had resulted in 35 per cent out-of-pocket expenditure this year, shifting the financial burden onto patients despite a heavily subsidised universal healthcare system by the government.
Earlier this month, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the cost of treating cancer is between RM50,000 and RM300,000 depending on the treatment.
"Therefore the purpose of the fund transfer is to ensure that the Health Ministry has sufficient money to grant access to affordable medicine and all Parliamentarians must support this.
"I know many MPs are facing the same thing. Many people come to them saying that they have to buy medicine from the pharmacies which is costing them more money.
"We must remember that healthcare is a fundamental right and the government must ensure that it is realised," he added.
It was reported that about 20 to 30 per cent of private sector patients have migrated to public hospitals as a result of high medical costs.
In making his point on the importance of the funds transfer, Santiago cited a case of a leukaemia patient from Klang whose medication was stopped two weeks ago.
"He was told that since he is going to die anyway, the hospital did not want to waste the drug on him.
"Thus, doctors in public hospitals are forced to play God and decide on a person's life as a result of budget austerity," Santiago said.
Reports by: ARFA YUNUS, FERNANDO FONG, and BEATRICE NITA JAY