While the whole of Malaysia was busy celebrating and preparing the night before Hari Raya, DH and I had to rush MyEldest to the emergency room of Hospital Ampang.
Earlier that day, I was scrubbing baking tins and greasy measuring cups after a day of baking cookies when MyEldest suddenly came up to me and said, “Mama, I had an accident, a real one! I was riding my bike and a motorcycle hit me.” Then he showed me an abrasion on his rib, complaining of pain and difficulty in breathing. And that’s how we ended up in Hospital Ampang, a relatively new government hospital that’s not far from where we live.
To our relief, the doctor on duty pronounced MyEldest clear of any internal injuries.
The whole exercise made me realise, however, how lucky Malaysians are — we only had to pay RM1 registration fee; doctor’s consultation and medicine were free of charge! Of course, on a normal day, the queue might be long and could take hours. But come to think of it: for as long as you have a Malaysian IC (identity card) or birth certificate, you can avail of free — or good as free — healthcare. Surgeries, chemotherapy, renal dialysis and most everything are covered (except perhaps appetite suppressants).
There are Health Clinics (Klinik Kesihatan) where expectant mothers can go for their monthly checkup, send their babies for the required vaccination, and for medical needs that don’t require hospitalisation. There are even government dental clinics where a filling only costs RM2 and an extraction RM1.
Facilities are quite up to date. Selayang Hospital, for instance, have done away with paperwork — everything’s computerized. When MyEldest fractured his ankle a few years ago, they took an x-ray of his foot. By the time we went to see the doctor, he had the x-ray image on his computer!
In fact, some government hospitals are the first to have the latest of certain medical equipment. At least, that’s the info I got from a guy who used to film medical documentaries at the General Hospital of Kuala Lumpur (GHKL).
Of course, the wait is almost always long. And the level of service may not be as personalized as in private hospitals. But not all hospitals are as congested as GHKL. And there ARE samples of exemplary service in government hospitals. And the queue can be just as long in a private dental clinic and you have to pay RM50 for a filling that could have cost you only RM2 in a government dental clinic. And private clinics are not exempt from cases of medical malpractice.
At the end of the day, if you can’t wait and/or can afford to go to a private hospital, by all means, please do so. But for many Malaysians who may not be able to afford expensive healthcare, government hospitals are always there to fall back on. That’s tax money at work. And Malaysians are definitely way better off than the Americans, where more money per person is spent on health care in the United States than in any other nation in the world, where a greater percentage of total national income is spent on health care than in any United Nations member state except for Tuvalu, and where medical debt is the principal cause of personal bankruptcy! (Source: Wikipedia)
Yes, Malaysians are a lucky lot indeed. Most of them just don’t realise it…