Malaysian MP seeking judicial review to make healthcare accessible to foreigners

Malaysian MP seeking judicial review to make healthcare accessible to foreigners
Dr Jeyakumar is seeking an order that the minister and his ministry would engage and discuss with relevant authorities to ensure that any circular released by it are in line with the precepts of public health.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR - An MP is seeking judicial review proceedings over the implementation of a public hospitals and clinics' fee structure for foreigners, which he claimed would deter them from seeking treatment, thus possibly causing a spread in diseases.

Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, who is a former chest physician, said the Health Ministry had acted without lawful basis in making its decision on the Medical Fee Order which was enforced on Jan 1.

He also filed the lawsuit in his capacity as secretary for the Coalition against Health Care Privatisation, which comprised 15 NGOs.

He named the Health Minister, his ministry and Government as respondents in his application for leave filed at the High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) registry.

Dr Jeyakumar is seeking an order that the minister and his ministry would engage and discuss with relevant authorities to ensure that any circular released by it are in line with the precepts of public health.

In his affidavit-in-support of his application, Dr Jeyakumar said the guidelines had also included the methods to deal with foreigners without valid travel documents.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dr Jeyakumar said most migrant workers would face difficulties in seeking treatment at government hospitals and clinics due to the new fee structure.

"The cost for foreigners to get checked for tuberculosis which includes registration fee and fees for basic tests would be RM92 (S$33.11)," he said.

Dr Jeyakumar said that Point 10 of the guidelines also deters undocumented foreigners from seeking medical treatment as it requires all public health institutions to report these foreigners to the police and the Immigration Department.

"There are about two million undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia who did not go through any medical screening upon arrival here. They do not go for yearly medical screenings. These undocumented foreign workers represents a major cause for the rise in TB cases.

"I am not asking the government to give free health treatment to foreigners but deduct from their levies imposed on them to cover their healthcare," said Dr Jeyakumar, who is former director of Tuberculosis Control Programme for Perak.

For instance, he said statistics from the Malaysian Medical Association's publication stated that there were 24,711 new cases of TB last year.

TB, he said, was a contagious and airborne disease.

"It ranks as the second leading cause of death from a single agent after the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV," he said, adding that 47 per cent of the migrant workers who failed their medical screening were found to have TB last year.

He said the coalition had also issued a press statement on Feb 12 saying that the guidelines would have negative impacts on the country's health environment as it deters migrant workers from seeking medical treatment.

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