Privatization of medical services is not a new phenomena in this country. As a result, new private hospitals are build every year. Even small towns have their own private hospital. This gives rise to certain misconception about government hospital. People living in rural areas believe that private hospitals are better than government hospital. They see only the rich can afford to seek treatment from private hospitals, therefore the service must be better than government hospitals.
What they fail to realize is that some of residential areas supposed to be resided by ‘the rich’ or the working class people such as Shah Alam and PJ do not have government hospital. So, people have to go to the nearest private hospital. Since going to private is a prestige, people living in rural areas have to sell everything they have, in order to get treatment from the prestigious private hospital.
Worst still, in a place like Alor Star, the government hospital doesn’t have a critical service to do open heart surgery and cancer treatment. Patients have to be referred to Penang and even Kubang Kerian to be treated. It is costly for people mostly from rural Kedah to stay in Penang or to travel to Kubang Kerian. The government has to do upgrade services for the benefit of the people.
We have been doing quite a lot in term of upgrading health facility in the rural areas. I can give many example like Hospital Setiu and many health centers in the periphery. However, a lot more can be done to address the problem of disparity of services between urban and rural. They have to be dealt with more positively.