KUALA LUMPUR, 30 March 2009: The Federation of Private Medical Practitioner’s Association of Malaysia (FPMPAM) today urged the government not to rush to liberalise healthcare services here through the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) healthcare liberalisation.
FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow said this was because the Malaysian healthcare services sector in particular was not ready for that (liberalisation).
The healthcare liberalisation through Afta is schedule to start next year.
He said presently there was an absence of a suitable legal and regulatory framework to prevent the exploitation of the national healthcare market by foreign businesses, which may be driven solely for commercial interests.
“Rushing towards liberalising the healthcare services without a proper regulatory framework, would jeopardise the overall healthcare system in the country,” he said in a statement today.
He said there was a need for Asean to move towards harmonisation of healthcare standards such as in the European Union (EU)) before opening up market access but this should be done as a gradual process.
Chow said without proper safeguards, the move would exacerbate Malaysia’s healthcare woes as market forces and business sense was unlikely to encourage foreigners to start their business in small towns, where the problem of shortage and poor access to healthcare services was more apparent.
“But more importantly, we cannot rush this process, especially if it is for the sake of boosting medical tourism. Healthcare is not just another business commodity.
“The government needs to answer how it sees the liberalisation of healthcare fitting into the larger process of healthcare reforms earmarked under the 10th Malaysian Plan. We need to ensure that this move will benefit the people of Malaysia and not just businesses,” he said.
Chow added that the framework must not compromise the quality of care and be able to monitor the conduct of foreign doctors as well as provide an avenue to protect patients.
The Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) was signed in 1992 to liberalise the healthcare, air travel and electronic commerce sectors by 2010.
Signatory countries include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. — Bernama