Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Non-profit hospitals struggle to survive

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Non-profit hospitals are struggling to survive as the number of patients seeking treatment at such institutions is dropping drastically, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said patients were now turning away from such hospitals because people seeking treatment in these places were perceived to be of a lower social status.
This development is worrying those who have been relying on these hospitals.
“These hospitals are slowly closing down one by one or losing their definition as non-profit institutions,” he said in an interview yesterday.
There are about 12 non-profit hospitals in the country such as Penang Adventist Hospital, Mt Miriam Hospital and Lam Wah Ee Hospital in Penang, as well as Chinese Maternity Hospital and Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Although these hospitals depend on donations to subsidise operations, payment from patients were still needed to keep the hospital running.
They are exempted from paying the 28% corporate tax imposed on private hospitals.
Dr Chua said patients had the ultimate choice when it came to hospitals.
“Our patients tend to depend on branding even when it comes to hospitals. They don’t want to be associated as someone with lower status when they are sick,” he said.
Association of Private Hospitals vice-president Datuk Teddric J. Mohr said there were a lot of advantages which non-profit hospitals could bring to Malaysians.
“They can help out public hospitals,” he said.
He said in the United States, 80% of its hospitals were non-profit, compared with Malaysia where there were only 12.
“At the same time, we have 200 private hospitals here,” he said.
Mohr, who is Penang Adventist Hospital president, said that in the United States non-profit hospitals must collect 5% more than the bottom line, which they have to use to replace equipment so that they could keep themselves modern.
He said the hospital industry was very complex and extremely competitive and institutions have to face the constant challenge of having to keep up with new medical equipment and knowledge.
A spokesman for the Chinese Maternity Hospital said the Government did not provide any subsidy and because of this, it was unable to refurbish extensively.
“Our institution has very attractive packages but are unable to compete with other private hospitals. Our midwife delivery package is as low as RM388 while for consultants, it ranges from RM1,000 to RM2,000.
“If five-star private hospitals offer almost the same packages, patients would prefer to go there,” he said, adding that traffic along Jalan Pudu at certain periods of the day would also put some patients off.

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