A weekend in Penang… showing support for MMA and doctor’s unity.

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Prior to Ramadhan, I was invited by my NGO to attend the Malaysian Medical Association dinner that was held in Penang. Since I cancelled my plans to Phuket that weekend due to patient lists, I decided to allow myself a one day break to join them. So after my patient on Friday, I drove my car to KLIA 2 and parked it there and then jumped on the flight. I calculated the amount of money spent leaving my car as compared to taking a cab makes it more feasible to just leave my car on single night trips like these. I paid RM 78 for parking which was not bad considering I did not need to walk or lunge my luggage around and it was straight door to door transport. (One 24 hours is RM 42 is I am not mistaken)

The flight was just 1 hour and later I took a cab to my hotel which was located in George Town which is like city capital for Penang. Getting off the plane was fantastic as I breathed the clean fresh air away from my usual metropolitan Kuala Lumpur. It was my first time on a flight to Penang as I usual drive up there myself. The airport was small but busy. My hotel was a small 4 star hotel located nearby Komtar. I had a nice comfortable room and the staff at the Cititel were really helpful and friendly. A friend picked me up for tea time at Padang Kota which was nearby for some Mee Sotong. It was basically a mamak mee with dried squid sambal on top but it was superb. Penang always amazes me on the simplicity of the food and yet the taste is paradise. Subsequently we had to rush back to the hotel since I had to attend the MMA dinner that was in another hotel. Luckily, my friend volunteered to wait and send me to St Giles.

The MMA dinner was interesting with a lot of preparation and work put in for the event. Congratulations to Dr Ravi for the appointment to the presidency post. I am sure you will do your best for the future of MMA and all doctors. Guest of honours were the Yang di Pertua Negeri Pulau Pinang and the Health Minister Dato’ Dr Subramaniam. What attracted me most about his speech was on how the government is trying to impose a single healthcare payer system which means there will be a national insurance scheme to cover all Malaysians. In a way this is in line with the WHO report that says that 80% of Malaysians fork out of pocket expenses for healthcare as compared to other countries, and they recommend that the government encourage insurance uptake to reduce this. But funnily, Malaysia is ranked top 10 in healthcare despite this issue and so perhaps patients paying out of their own pockets isn’t really a bad thing, except that healthcare expenses increase by 10% on average yearly, and people still get sick from time to time. In fact, the government has already suggested to implement on government servants by deducting a small sum from the salary monthly as payment for health insurance. This boils down to another question… then what is to become of private practice?

There is a lot of reservation and anxiety among private practitioners and healthcare providers. However, knowing our country’s system, it will take years to implement and hopefully by engaging the doctor societies and allowing transparency to all stakeholders, there will be a solution to this that will benefit all parties. It looks like we will just have to sit and watch and act when we can.

Penang is a beautiful island and I will definitely miss the lively environment, the beautiful people and the delicious food. Definitely will be back for more sunshine and gastronomic endeavours.