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In Praise Of The Malaysian Healthcare System

Posted by on 7 February 2012

Malaysia enjoyed yet another long weekend last weekend. Prophet Muhammad’s birthday fell on a Sunday, thereby rendering Monday a holiday, and Thaipusam conveniently followed a day after, hence the four-day weekend. (NB: That’s multi-cultural, multi-religious Malaysia for you — Chinese New Year holiday the week before, Muslim and Hindu holidays the week after. I love it!) I’ve been looking forward to the past weekend so much, hoping to catch up on some office work, update my blog, and do a bit of spring cleaning at home.

Alas! Life always throws you curve balls when you least expect it — my mum had an SVT (supra ventricular tachycardia) and had to be rushed to the hospital. SVT in layman’s terms means the heart is pumping much faster than usual. In my mum’s case, it was hovering at around 200 beats per minute (BPM), waaay higher than most women who only average some 70 to 80 BPM.

We rushed her to Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya (University of Malaya Medical Centre) or PPUM for short, also known as Hospital Universiti or UH. I’ve always known PPUM as UH and prefer to refer to it as thus. Anyway, UH is a semi-government hospital which is, as the name suggests, connected to University of Malaya. So it’s quite uncommon for student doctors to be milling about and doing the rounds with the specialists. But I digress…

To cut a long story short, despite responding positively to the medication initially given to her at the emergency room, my mum was admitted for further observation and testing given her advanced age.

My mum had 4 ECGs, several blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, and a two-night stay in a four-bedded room in the Cardiology Ward. Upon her discharge today, the pharmacy gave her a month’s supply of medication which included a box of Micardis 80mg, quite pricey by most standards. As I queued at the counter to make payment, I braced myself for the total bill, mentally estimating it to be at least RM2,000. Note that I based my estimate on my experience with private hospitals in Malaysia.

To my surprise, the total bill was only RM297 (~USD94), including the medication which only cost RM60! (The box of Micardis alone retails for some RM80 in most pharmacies.)

My mum was more shocked than I was, after having experienced firsthand the quality of the medical care, the efficiency and professionalism of the doctors and nurses, the hospital’s facilities and state-of-the-art medical equipment which rivaled, if not surpassed, what private hospitals can offer. Had my mum been a Malaysian citizen, she probably would not have had to pay a single cent other than a token registration fee. Even if she had to pay, it would have been some ridiculously low amount, a mere fraction of what private hospitals usually bill.

The Malaysian healthcare system continues to impress me. It may not be perfect but it’s a world apart from what is offered in the Philippines or Indonesia, based on my personal experience. Yet another reason why I’m truly grateful to able to call Malaysia my home right now.

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