Putrajaya (Malaysia), Apr.3 : Some 200 children born with congenital heart disease every year will soon be travelling to Bangalore for a new lease on life.
Thanks to a RM2 million a year allocation from the government's Medical Assistance Fund, the children of the poor will be able to undergo surgery at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, reports the New Strait Times.
Malaysian Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday that the hospital was one of India's premier heart centres for children.
Treatment, including the operation at the hospital, costs RM10, 000 per child, exclusive of other incidental costs.
"We have made arrangements with the hospital, with the cabinet agreeing to allocate RM2 million from the RM45 million fund for the purpose," Liow said after chairing his ministry's post-cabinet meeting.
Applications for funding can be made through the Social Welfare Department, with the opportunity only open to those from families living on RM660 a month or less.
Liow said the move would help ease waiting time for patients needing urgent heart operations.
He said the fund was a last resort for children who were running out of time.
Ten out of every 1,000 babies born in Malaysia every year have congenital heart disease. This translates into an estimated 5,000 children born with heart problems with 2,000 to 3,000 needing operations.
Expertise is short in Malaysia where there are 12 public and private heart centres with 17 cardio-thoracic specialists.
The Institute Jantung Negara handles 70 to 80 per cent of cases.
Compared with the cost in India, a heart operation in Malaysia can cost between RM 17, 000 to RM 45, 000 depending on whether one opts for public or private treatment.
Liow also announced that from next month, all public hospitals and clinics would be working towards reducing waiting time for outpatient treatment to 30 minutes.