IPOH: There has been an increase in the number of people seeking treatment at government hospitals and clinics over the last six months.
Deputy Minister of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad attributes this to the global economic slowdown. The concern over money had affected the public's capacity to seek treatment at private hospitals.
"Patients only need pay RM1 to consult a doctor and seek treatment at government hospitals. Although they have to wait to see the doctors, more of them are visiting government hospitals and clinics now," he said after opening the 3rd Perak Health Conference here yesterday.
The conference, themed "Bridging Public Health Practice and Clinical Medicine", was organised by the Perak Health Department and the Malaysian Public Health Specialists Association (Perak).
Also present were Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican and Perak Health Department director Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir.
Asked if the government healthcare sector would be able to cope with the rising number of patients, Dr Abdul Latiff said the situation was manageable with extended hours at several clinics nationwide. These clinics are open until 9.30pm.
He said he had told hospital staff to be "flexible" when collecting payments for hospitalisation and surgeries from the lower income group.
"Patients with financial difficulties can raise the matter with the hospital directors or social medical officers," he said, pointing out that the officers had been vested with powers to reduce or cancel the charges.