Numerous Asian countries are now struggling to provide people from all walks of life with better access to health care facilities. Private companies have thrown clear signals their support for the errand and pursuit of more effective models of developing mutually beneficial relationships.
Thailand’s Vice Minister of Public Health Vichai Tienthavorn, while recently addressing the fourth ASEAN Symposium on Access to Healthcare in Manila, the Philippines, stated that his country has long set a high standard for public health facilities so that everyone could benefit.
He said that today only 20 percent of hospitals across Thailand are owned by private entities.
“Many people tend to go to public hospitals,” he added.
Wikipedia recorded that as of 2008 there were 1,608 registered government and private hospitals throughout the country.
He went on to say that every medical student in Thailand had been obliged to sign a three-year contract with the government, stating their availability to serve in rural areas once they graduated from medical school.
“It has been the third year of implementation and is still ongoing. If they fail to meet this requirement, they will be fined,” Tienthavorn said.
He added that some private medical schools had also joined the cause by registering their students in the program. He did not elaborate on the cooperation models between public and private companies.
Philippines’ Asian Institute of Management’s Dr. Stephen Zuellig Center for Asian Business Transformation’s executive director, Kenneth Hartigan-Go, who also spoke at the conference, said future homework for almost every government would involve developing the appropriate model of social health insurance, which would enable every citizen access to better healthcare.
“You can’t put a finger on access to healthcare without bringing the entire system along as well,” he said.
The social wealth insurance scheme, he said, could create social solidarity and in order to be able to do that the government needed to work hand in hand with the private sector. He added that the right partnership between public and private entities would help provide people better access to health care facilities.
Dato’ Beh Chun Chuan, founder and chairman of BP Healthcare group of Malaysia, who also spoke at the conference, acknowledged that he was still presently looking for an ideal partnership between the government and the private sector.
“The government must place the right people in this business or it could ruin the entire idea of having an ideal partnership between the public and private sectors in providing better access to healthcare,” he said.
Ferdinal Fernando, ASEAN Secretariat’s assistant director for Health and Communicable Diseases division, who was also in attendance, acknowledged that he had seen an emerging spirit among Asian countries in promoting access to healthcare and healthier ways of life.
“Indonesia, for example, has shown seriousness in bringing health issues to the regional stage. In fact, Indonesia has become one of the promoters that have brought communicable disease issues to a broader stage,” he said.
He also corroborated the statement that cooperation between public and private entities would be unavoidable in the effort to provide wider access on healthcare.
“Providing better access to healthcare has been one of our commitments written in the ASEAN welfare road map that has been agreed in 2009. We will take a comprehensive look at this particular issue by 2015,” he said.
In the Philippines, a joint cooperation between the public health care facility and private companies has been implemented. The National Kidney and Transplant Institute (KNTI), for example, is among the public institutions that receive support from Philips Healthcare division, part of the Royal Philips Electronic, one of the world’s leading giants in medical equipment and innovative technology.
Executive director of the Philippines’ National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) Aileen Riego-Javier confirmed the cooperation. She said the cooperation was necessary because even though KNTI was a state-owned institution, it only received 7 percent government funding while bearing the remaining costs on their own.
“We need to find a suitable funding scheme to ensure our services to the public run well,” she said.
Senior vice president of Philips Healthcare Asia Pacific region Wayne Spittle said one of the ideas for the company to support public health institutions such as KNTI was helping the institution provide affordable medical services for everyone.
“We provide various funding models so the recipient would then be able to apply affordable services for its patients,” he said.
Aileen said that comprehensive medical plans were available to ensure that everyone could access proper medical treatment.
She added that the Philippines government now provides various charity programs for less fortunate patients who need immediate health assistance.
Nelson Lin, a businessman whose mother is currently being treated at KNTI, however, expressed his doubt that a poor patient could easily access treatment at KNTI.
“The treatment for my mother, for example, costing US$500 per day, is out of reach for poor patients, even with some form of support,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Ferdinand Morabe, one of the KNTI medical practitioners, revealed that usually if a poor patient sought medical treatment at KNTI, he or she should bring an assessment form verified by a previous clinic in order to confirm that they were indeed in need of specific treatment provided only by KNTI.
“Since we are handling specific cases related to kidneys and transplants we have to make sure that patient candidates are going to need our specific help and are not confused with patients suffering other health problems,” he said.