Pensioners were hit with a thunder-bolt with the sudden announcement that no more medicine will be supplied for them by Oratis Services Sdn Bhd, the JPA-appointed company. Oratis had been supplying the medicine to all pensioners throughout the country since 2012.

According to a friend in Ipoh, when his wife went to the general hospital on 27 February to apply for Suplasyn, (Sterile Sodium Hyaluronate) for treatment for her painful knee problem, she was told that that the hospital had received instructions not to prescribe this and other medicines as from 28 February. This treatment was available for all pensioners for many years.

I’m told by a pharmacy in Penang that they received this notification from Oratis vide email on 27 February at 3.00 pm instructing them not to issue any more medicine to pensioners from February 28 onwards as was the case prior to this email. Strangely, they were given less than 24 hours’ notice to stop supplying medicine to pensioners!

Why such urgency? Why this sudden turn of events? What is the problem? Don’t pensioners deserve to know? Aren’t they entitled to this information?

To make matters worse, pensioners have not been told how they are going to have access to their much-needed medicine from now onwards. What does a cardiac patient on blood thinners do now? Is there an alternate source for him to acquire his monthly supply of life-saving medicine? Is there an alternate system in place to replace Oratis?

We are in the dark.

Before Oratis, the company supplying the medicine, came into the picture, pensioners collected their supply of medicine from the hospital pharmacy. When any medicine was not available from the hospital pharmacy, and if this medicine was deemed necessary for the patient, the specialist would recommend that this medicine be bought outside and paid for by the patient who could subsequently claim the cost of medicine from the Public Services Commission (JPA)

This system worked very satisfactorily for all concerned for a long time.

Then in 2012, the JPA introduced this new system by appointing Oratis to provide the medicine that were not available at the government hospitals. At the initial stages, we had to fax the prescription to Oratis in KL who would then call us to confirm that they had received the prescription and inform us that the medicine will be sent to us by PosLaju which was done subsequently.

Later, pharmacies were required to register with Oratis which simplified matters. All that the pensioner had to do was to present to the pharmacy the authorised form signed by the specialist together with the prescription and collect the medicine. It made things easier for pensioners.

By transferring the supply line to Oratis, it added to the cost and made healthcare expensive. The administrative cost of Oratis has to be paid for but who pays for it? When pharmacies sell their medicine, medical tools and devices to Oratis their profit margin is included to the cost. When Oratis supplies this medicine to pensioners, I’m told, that Oratis adds another 17% profit margin on top of that. You can imagine how much more JPA ends up paying Oratis for the supply of medicine!

We have no clue why JPA had cancelled the contract with Oratis. Was there a falling out with certain personalities? Or is there a new company in the offing to take over this medical business from Oratis and reap a huge profit?

It is difficult to fathom government policies. But pensioners need to know soon where their supply of medicine will come from. Can we be enlightened, please?

WRITER: P Ramakrishnan