KUALA LUMPUR: Medical and civil society associations welcomed the increase in the health budget but some concerns were raised, especially on access to medicine.
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights treasurer Muhammed Sha'ani Abdullah pointed out the RM4.1bil for medical supplies, consumables and medical support may not be adequate.
"This will pose a problem to healthcare services because as it is, with the RM4bil allocation in Budget 2017, patients were already facing problems obtaining adequate medicine for treatment," he said.
He pointed out that the allocation for medicines, consumables, vaccine, reagents for Budget 2016 was RM6bil.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, a centre driven by pharmaceutical companies, also raised concern that there could be insufficient allocation for drugs and medical consumables to screen and treat diseases.
Its chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said the Health Ministry expressed concern about the massive influx of people moving from private to public healthcare, particularly for outpatient care.
"There were 10 million more outpatient cases recorded in 2016 compared to the previous year. This year is expected to end with even higher numbers.
"This is cause for concern as an insufficient allocation could result in shortages of essential drugs needed to treat diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes," he said in a statement.
He said that these shortages, will affect those most vulnerable such as senior citizens, pensioners and those from the lower income bracket.
Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said there have been concerns about patients not being able to get medicine from the government and having to purchase their own.
"There is also a lack of facilities and patients are on a long waiting list," he said.
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ravindran R. Naidu said he welcomed the RM2bil increase for healthcare, which is 10% more than the budget for 2017.
"Hopefully, they do not reduce it later like the last two years," he said.
He also said more hospitals should be built in districts rather than expanding big hospitals.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan wanted more details on the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (RM50mil) as employers already insure their workers as a general practice, with hospitalisation coverage of between RM40,000 and RM100,000 per employee.
He said the Government should help employers ease the insurance loading they have to pay as employees get older.
"When the Government increased the retirement age to 60, there was no accompanying policy to reduce the burden of employers in paying insurance for employees," he said.