[ANONYMOUS comments with not be entertained. When commenting, your real identity is preferred. But a suitable pseudonym is accepted. If you have to use anonymous, please print your name or pen name at the bottom of your message. Please avoid seditious, defamatory and libelous statements. Unrelated comments will not be given priority.]
THE Star online reported that the Cabinet has decided to defer its decision on the proposed privatisation of the National Heart Institute (IJN). Sources told The Star that this was decided at the weekly Cabinet meeting today.
In a related development, the IJN doctors said they are happy to serve the institute in its present form and do not want to be made a scapegoat in the proposed privatisation of the institute.
In a statement signed by 33 of the 35 medical consultants working for IJN, they stressed that the proposed privatisation was not a response towards their demands for better pay.
“We would like to reiterate our commitment to serve IJN in its current form and want to stress that the move must not be seen as a response to our demands for better pay,” it said.
The doctors added that the medical personnel were not at all involved in the negotiations for the proposed takeover.
[ORIGINAL POST]THE SUDDENESS with which the news that the National Heart Institute (IJN) may be privatised to Sime Darby appeared in the media suggests that conspiracy of sorts is at work.
It becomes even more sinister when such a promise as “guaranteeing low fees for the poor” is made by no less then the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, himself.
I read in the newspaper of the same promise made by the Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Health Minister, Liow Tiong Lai.
We have seen this line been used before to justify selling public assets to enrich selected individuals and companies before.
We have seen how the original Pantai Hospital was allowed floated on Bursa Malaysia on condition that it continued to provide emergency treatment to all and provide assistance to poor patients.
Did it happen? Instead we heard of the hospital being awarded with long-term government contracts to screen foreign workers (Fomema) and to provide hospital services to government hospitals.
The company itself had been bought and sold several times to generate massive profits for its controlling shareholders -- the last to the Singapore-based Parkway Holdings.
Upon realising that he had allowed the company to fall into foreign hands, Abdullah, who was then also Finance Minister, hastily ordered Khazanah Nasional to buy it back at hefty premiums.
Mohd Najib, the son of the man who was in the forefront of the democratisation of health services with his Rancangan Kesihatan Luar Bandar, should start being truthful to himself and to the great legacy of his father.
As Finance Minister and the chief articulator of the Umno-led BN government he has the power to push through the sale of public assets and to justify it as he had done with the “fatal” backdoor takeover of Golden Hope and Guthrie Corporation by Sime Darby via Synergy Drive, which was the creation of his brother, Mohd Nazir.
Sime Darby was once a diversified and highly regarded company. Today, thanks to the merger and its sudden dependence on palm oil, Sime Darby is suffering.
Could the proposed sale of IJN to Sime Darby be Mohd Najib’s way of helping to prop up the (new) Sime Darby, which is essentially the product of his brother’s market-making?
Why the sudden need to consider selling IJN? We have not heard of the institute suffering any kind of financial problem. Yes, we know the institute is suffering a bit because its world-class specialists and supporting staff are being poached by private hospitals.
Surely making it another private hospital will not solve the core problem of growing staff shortage, which in the first place is caused in part by the proliferation of private hospitals.
Of course we know that some members of the institute’s top management stand to make a lot of money selling their minority shares and options to Sime Darby.
If the government makes the habit of selling premium public assets like IJN to the GLCs and private sector companies for short-term gain and narrow political consideration, the ordinary rakyat will never get to enjoy world-class services.
They will forever be condemned to poorly equipped and staffed government hospitals, which are being deprived of specialists and good doctors on daily basis.
Instead the government should impose a sort of "countervailing tax" on private hospitals and their rich local and foreign patients and use that revenue to train more doctors and build more well-equipped public hospitals.
I beg Mohd Najib to start thinking seriously about the welfare of the masses like his late father did instead of pushing the country towards exclusivity for the sake of profits and short-term gains. He should start with keeping IJN a public hospital.
The welfare of the poor is batter taken care of and guaranteed by keeping IJN public instead of making low fees for the poor a condition for privatisation.
What is low anyway? An RM300 per outpatient treatment at Petronas’ Prince Court Medical Centre is low to a BMW-driving city slicker. But RM300 is a lot of money to a poor padi farmer.
That Sime Darby is close to the government is neither a guarantee nor a comfort. Sime Darby already owns and operates the Subang Jaya Medical Centre. How many poor people are being treated there at low fees?