A pressure group on public health policies has lamented the lack of attention given to healthcare by political blocs in Malaysia, urging them to make the issue a major part of their manifestos at the polls next month.
"Healthcare has rarely, if ever, been the focus of political debate in any election campaign, much less a general election.
"Many believe that health should not, in fact, be politicised. That should change," the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said, as it unveiled a document telling political parties what to prioritise in the health sector.
The document warned, among others, that the huge annual allocations for health were still inadequate.
"It is sobering to realise that the proposed increase of RM3.7 billion in the allocation as announced in the recent Budget 2023 would practically be wiped out by the cost of treating diabetes (estimated around RM 3.1 billion annually)," it said.
Galen Centre said the 15th general election should be an opportunity to gauge the commitment of political parties to healthcare.
"There is no magic wand, or expecting someone else to take up the burden of responsibility for much needed reforms.
"Strong commitment, including strengthening policies and the necessary financial and human resources, to proposed reforms are needed. Not five or ten years from now. Today," said its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib.
He said four critical issues must be addressed by political parties, namely healthcare financing, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and the ageing population.
"If the political parties do not have at least three out of the four listed, that means that they are not serious about the ongoing and future challenges impacting the state of health of Malaysians, and are instead kicking the problem down to another government to solve, or worse, pretending that these issues are not relevant to the electorate," he added.
He said the next government should be able to take unpopular measures such as taxation and regulation to ensure better health services for the public.
"We urge all parties to read our document and see whether their manifestos meet expectations on health.
"We will be reading and evaluating the respective manifestos of the main political parties and coalitions, and will not hesitate to highlight the good, the bad as well as the ugly when it comes to health."