25 Oct 2023
Lack of dedicated funding in Budget 2024 for health services, dementia treatment of aged adults disappointing, says association chief
PETALING JAYA: Budget 2024 has brought hope to different sectors of society, but the health needs of the elderly must be given more focus, said Third Age Media Association president Cheah Tuck Weng.
He said the Health Ministry has been granted a significant budget increase of 13.5% or RM4.9 billion from the previous year, bringing its total allocation to RM41.2 billion.
Cheah said the increase is a positive step to achieving the desired 5% of gross domestic product spending on healthcare by Budget 2027.
“Of the total allocation, RM35.2 billion is designated for operating expenditure while RM6.1 billion is allocated for development.
“While the budget includes an overall increase in health funding, there is a lack of allocations dedicated to the development of health services for older persons and the treatment of dementia.
“Let me reiterate that the lack of dedicated funding for older adults’ health services and dementia treatment is disappointing.
“It contradicts Malaysia’s commitment to the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing from 2021 to 2030, and the Global Action Plan for Dementia from 2017 to 2025,” he told theSun.
Supporting him is the Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine president Prof Tan Maw Pin, who also lamented the lack of specific allocations for services targeting older adults.
“Without this, funding for the healthcare needs of older persons is likely to be drawn from general medicine, mental health, family health development and disease control budgets.
“This may result in limited resources being allocated to geriatric medicine and dementia services, and the reallocation of funds from other essential areas such as disease prevention and community-based care for older adults.”
However, Tan said it is worth noting that other areas, such as dental and pharmaceutical services, have received larger increases in funding.
He said this will indirectly benefit older adults who are major users of the services.
“Funding for the medical treatment of federal pensioners has seen a 52% increase. This addresses previous difficulties faced by them in accessing expensive treatments.”
Tan said the increase in overall health funding does not seem to be reflected in allocations that directly impact community care and support services for older adults.
Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society president Prof Shahrul Bahyah Kamaruzzaman said the Welfare Department received an allocation of RM923 million for social care funding for older adults.
“This represents an increase from the previous budget. But considering inflation and the growing population of older adults, it falls short in addressing the real needs.”
Despite these concerns, Sharul Bahyah said there is hope for the future.
“Malaysia has the potential to become a leading destination for affordable retirement, health tourism and retirement living.
“The promises outlined in the Health White Paper and the blueprint to address national ageing indicate the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of the ageing population.”
Sharul Bahyah emphasised that structural reforms and ongoing efforts are necessary to effectively deliver the ageing population agenda and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the silver economy.