On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Make sure funds are accounted for

But he has a good track record. With the support of
generous Malaysians, the money would usually pour in.

Once the medical treatment is over, Chong would call a
press conference for the patient to thank the people. Any excess money would
then be passed on to the next needy patient.

Often, the money comes from anonymous donors. No
questions are asked.

Those involved in non-government organisations would tell
you that funds are hard to come by these days, especially from the

On the other hand, there are publicity seekers who want
their pictures to appear in print for donating a paltry sum.

People seeking help often head straight for a newspaper
office to tell their plight. Most are genuine cases but it is standard
procedure for editors to insist on medical records and referrals from doctors.

The media would not directly raise funds for them but
would advise them to approach a reputable organisation or person, like Chong,
to highlight their case.

As in all fund raising, a proper account is usually then
opened to ensure some form of accountability.

Like all fund-raising efforts, there would always be

There is no foolproof system. Even the Rural Development
Ministry-run programme for the hardcore poor has been allegedly subjected to

Generally, the public trusts social organisations more
than government agencies in the collection and distribution of donations.

Medical treatment, especially in complicated cases, has
become so expensive that professionals earning between RM6,000 and RM8,000 a
month would have difficulty meeting the expenses.

I know of one engineer who needs RM600,000 for an
operation in the United States
to save his three-month-old child who has a heart condition. The expert in Malaysia
has written off the case but, like any parent, the engineer is fighting to save
his child's life.

In the US,
he could stay for free in a hostel, run by a fast-food chain, next to the
hospital to cut down on expenses. All he needs to do is to help clean up the
hostel. He wonders why such facilities cannot be made available here.

The engineer has been going around seeking financial help
from relatives. The family income has suffered because his wife has to give up
her job as they take turns to continue the battle for their child's life.

The proposal by Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng that
appeals for donations to treat severe cases be referred to the ministry's
director-general for screening and evaluation is well-intended.

Chua is correct in suggesting that the public has
complained of lack of transparency in utilising donations.

He said the media would have to refer cases to the
director-general who would examine the case and look at whether the government
hospitals had the expertise to treat the patient.

If the treatment or operation could not be performed
locally, the director-general would then give the go-ahead for the patient to
go abroad.

Based on this, the director-general would then inform the
media whether it could do a fund-raising campaign for the case concerned, Chua

The method makes sense. Unknown to many, the Selayang
hospital and the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
hospital in Cheras, for instance, are easily better equipped than many private

And who says government staff is less caring? I know of a
Malay woman doctor, Dr Salmah Nordin at the Taman Ehsan government clinic in
Kepong, who skipped lunch to treat a Chinese patient for suspected liver
problems – and the other staff patiently waited for her to complete her
thorough treatment.

Such dedication speaks well of the many overworked and
under-paid doctors in government medical facilities.

Chua's proposal, however, needs some fine-tuning to
ensure practicality. One wonders whether the committee headed by the
director-general has the time and means to investigate all cases referred to

Malaysians do not want government red tape to delay
urgent cases. Then, there is the question of accountability on the part of the

In fact, most Malaysians are not even aware of the RM5mil
in the National Health Welfare Fund. If journalists are not familiar with this
fund, what more the ordinary folk?

The proposal for the media to refer all cases to the
director-general also has no legal basis.

Perhaps a better solution would be to set up a community
chest, run by reputable individuals and supported by the government and private
sector. The agency can be run by full-time social workers and prominent figures
while the public can volunteer to carry out follow-up work.

Malaysians can also opt to make monthly deductions from
their wages, with the support of their employers and the Inland Revenue
Department. A proper annual report can then be presented to ensure

There will always be a few dishonest people who exploit
the generosity of Malaysians, but don't allow them to curb our willingness to
lend a helping hand.