Health, insurance providers need synergistic scheme for Covid-19 treatment

At the moment, most insurance providers do not cover Covid-19 treatment and hospitalisation

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by ARIF KARTONO

THE government, private hospital operators and insurance companies must work out a synergistic scheme that would ensure members of the public equal opportunities for Covid-19 testing, treatment and hospitalisation.

Health experts believe that all parties should now be in sync, especially after the recent call made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to include private medical centres in the Covid-19 treatment initiatives.

School of Pharmacy, Monash University Malaysia Lecturer Dr Mark Cheong said the plan, however, must ensure that patients are not faced with high medical bills that they have to pay out-of-pocket if they are directed to private hospitals for treatment.

“At the moment, most insurance providers do not cover Covid-19 treatment and hospitalisation. So, unless something changes, it will lead to patients having to pay high costs out of their own pocket.

“Some form of subsidisation either directly to patients or in collaboration between the government, private hospital operators and insurance companies will be required in order to make Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals a reasonable option for most Malaysians,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Such a synergistic scheme is also pertinent to avoid certain groups having to wait for their places at public hospitals, or potentially facing financial distress if they get treated at private hospitals.

The plan should also mobilise private hospitals to provide additional beds and treatment that could reduce the burden that is now experienced by public hospitals.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) reportedly had meetings with private hospitals to discuss their role in helping with the Covid-19 situation in the country.

According to Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, following the Movement Control Order 2.0 and emergency, they were considering working with private hospitals to look into Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 private hospitals.

Private hospitals can be slapped with RM5 million fine or jail time if they refuse to admit Category 1 and Category 2 Covid-19 patients in the current state of emergency.

Cheong said it is important for the government to urgently provide the MoH with additional resources to support their Covid-19 measures.

“The government needs to provide additional manpower to strengthen the contact tracing and testing operations, and transportation from other ministries to facilitate transportation of Covid-19 positive patients, if necessary.

“The current situation calls for the entire government to step in and assist the MoH,” he added.

Cheong said instructions that are simple and clear should be broadcast to the public on what they need to do if they or their close contacts are required to quarantine at home, and when does further treatment need to be sought.

Meanwhile, former Malaysian Medical Association president Dr John Chew suggests the government to set up more temporary hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

He cited London’s Nightingale hospital as an example, which was reopened to take in patients to help curb the coronavirus spread. Dr Chew said health authorities in Malaysia should consider doing the same.

“The first policy of infection control is to segregate the Covid-19 cases in one hospital, and not mixing Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.

“Don’t mix the oranges with apples. Cross-contamination is a real possibility. All hospitals might just be contaminated with Covid-19,” he told TMR.

He urged the MoH to increase public health control to 200% via “test, trace and isolate”.

“If things get out of control, lockdown quickly to buy time. If the polymerase chain reaction result is too slow, frequent rapid test kit antigen will cover more cases, provided that you know you might miss 30% of cases,” he concluded.