Interview with Dr. Jagdev Singh Deo, chairman of the Malaysian Doctors Cooperative and member of the Board of the International Health Co-operative Organisation
What is the origin of Koperasi Doktor Malaysia Berhad and what are their activities and future projects?
Koperasi Doktor Malaysia or KDM, is a doctor’s cooperative in Malaysia founded in 1988. It is the sole medical cooperative in Malaysia. This cooperative is set up to uphold the economic and social interest of its members. The activity is to implement business and services in the medical and health fields.
KDM Pharma, our business branch has proved to become a successful asset to our cooperative. We are in the process of expanding our business ventures into various investments. We hope to elevate the status of our cooperation so that our voices will be heard and one day be strong enough to help the doctors and community in our own ways such as lowering the prices of medical supplies. KDM’s Pharmaceutical wing, KDM Pharma, now in its 5th year is growing and we hope to manufacture pharmaceuticals one day in the future.
KDM has also invested in the Stem-Cell therapy. At the moment, KDM Berhad via Stem Medical (shareholder of Nichi-Asia) and the Malaysian Government are in the midst of discussing the use of stem-cell treatments. Recently, Malaysia has started to include Stem-Cell in various medical treatments. However, these treatments can be very expensive. We hope that through KDM, we are able to provide Stem-Cell treatments in Malaysia at an affordable rate.
What is the level of implementation of the health co-operatives in Malaysia?
Help provide cheaper drugs to our members and non-members of the medical community through KDM Pharma so as to reduce healthcare costs in the nation.
How does it work the collaboration between the public health system and health cooperatives in Malaysia?
The Ministry of Health Malaysia has given KDM control over the health screenings of foreign workers through a body called FOMEMA. Over the years, with the increasing economic and social development in Malaysia, the demand for foreign workers in Malaysia has been increasing steadily. Unfortunately, some of the foreign workers unknowingly brought with them diseases from their own country and their lifestyle. Due to that, Malaysia has seen a sudden increase in the appearance of diseases like Tuberculosis (TB), Polio and others. Some of the workers are also HIV infected or carriers of other transmittable diseases. Through the annual health screening imposed by FOMEMA, we are able to sieve out unhealthy and infectious diseases in the country.
Malaysia continues the battle against the Dengue fever. As we have mentioned before, it is an uphill task since we have so many odds against us namely, the weather. Being a tropical country, Malaysia receives a good amount of rain throughout the year, which prepares an easy breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito – the carrier of the Dengue fever. However, it is not an excuse to let it terrorise the country. So, the government has come up with a campaign to re-educate the people about dengue fever and how to recognise early signs of an infection to reduce fatality. They provide us with very cheap ‘dengue-kit’ for early detection.
Do you believe that health co-operatives provide a genuine alternative for the development of national health systems? Why?
Yes simply because all Health Co-operatives are member-owned, member-controlled and generating generous profits is least on their mind. Hence, their operating cost will be very minimal when compared to either a public or private health system. This will in turn ensure wider mass appeal let alone easy coverage and accessibility.
You are a member of the Board of the International Health Co-operative Organisation, what do you think are the challenges of the international cooperative movement in the health sector?
We need to convince the powers that be to inject more Government funds, Income-tax relief, Pioneer status and allied incentives to the Health co-operative sector so as to enable them to collectively compete with the relatively affluent private and public health systems.
The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, launched by International Co-operative Alliance, aims that co-operatives become the preferred business model in 2020. What initiatives are developing the Malaysian co-operatives related with the Blueprint?
Emerging markets which include Malaysia are facing a downturn in their economies. The respective governments are trying to stabilize their economies. In the case of Malaysia basic healthcare from the primary to tertiary level is very well taken care by the Government at extremely high cost. So it is difficult for the cooperative to get a footing in the hospital healthcare sector. But due to the increasing cost of healthcare the government would need to implement the national health insurance scheme for the nation.