KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 – The Economic Affairs Ministry has suspended the construction of Hospital Maran in Pahang, the Health Ministry revealed, with possible revival of the project only after 2020.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad did not give a reason for the suspension of the hospital by Azmin Ali’s ministry that was previously approved under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration in the 11th Malaysia Plan 2016-2020.
“However, in line with the Health Ministry’s desire to improve the quality of health care in this country, the Hospital Maran project is being revised for another application in the next Malaysia Plan by taking into account the government’s needs and current financial status,” Dzulkefly told Maran MP Ismail Abd Muttalib from Umno in Parliament yesterday.
Pahang is one of two states under BN after the once-long ruling coalition lost federal power to Pakatan Harapan (PH) and several states in the 2018 election.
Berita Harian reported Ismail as saying last May before the 14th general election that the RM80 million Hospital Maran project would benefit more than 130,000 residents in the district and surrounding areas.
“God willing, the hospital is estimated to be completed by 2022. Then, Maran residents don’t have to go to Hospital Jengka, Hospital Temerloh, and Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan that are quite far from their homes,” Ismail, a former deputy minister, was quoted saying.
Dzulkefly also said yesterday that the Health Ministry planned to cluster Hospital Orang Asli Gombak (HOAG) together with Hospital Selayang as the lead hospital and Hospital Kuala Kubu Baru as a non-lead hospital.
Hospital clusters comprise hospitals with and without specialists in the same location that share resources like human resources, facilities, and equipment among others to improve access to specialists and quality of services.
“Hospital Orang Asli Gombak also receives periodic specialist visits from Hospital Selayang in the area of medical emergency (once a month) and general medicine (once every two months for clinic services and ward rounds),” Dzulkefly told Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Nor in Parliament yesterday.
He also said RM240,000 was allocated to HOAG from 2014 to 2018 to purchase two portable ventilators, four AED machines, and two parameter patient monitors.
“On the suggestion that hospital board members comprise the Orang Asli, MOH welcomes the suggestion. The Ministry will peruse suitable candidates,” said Dzulkefly.
According to the minister, HOAG, which does not have specialists, provides treatment only for the Orang Asli with 93 beds that saw a bed occupancy rate of 19.46 percent in 2016 and 12.6 percent in 2017. The nearest hospital with specialists is Hospital Selayang.
When Lanang MP Alice Lau asked the Health Ministry to build an oncology centre in Hospital Sibu, Dzulkefly said cancer facilities could only be constructed in stages due to the lack of resources.
“Hospital Sibu already has specific cancer treatments for chemotherapy, whereas patients who need radiotherapy treatment need to get it at the Sarawak South Cluster Hospitals, which are Sarawak General Hospital and Sarawak Heart Centre, and Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
“Besides that, chemotherapy treatments are also available at nearby hospitals, which are Hospital Sarikei and Hospital Kapit,” Dzulkefly said in Parliament.
Lau said that Hospital Sibu needed oncology experts to serve not just people in Sibu, but residents from Mukah, Bintulu, Kapit , Julau, Kanowit, Selangau, and Sarikei.
“With a cancer centre in Hospital Sibu, patients and their family can save on transport costs, so they don’t have to fly to Kuching or Kuala Lumpur. Besides that, the lack of parking space in the car park at Hospital Sibu is getting increasingly worse,” said the DAP lawmaker.
Dzulkefly said in response that Hospital Sibu was a major specialist hospital with 47 specialist medical officers of various grades as of January 31 this year, marking a 53 percent increase from January 2016.
“As of January 31 2019, there are 29 oncology medical specialists of various grades throughout the country,” said the minister, adding that the Health Ministry placed oncology experts in six regional centres, four of which were in Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching.
“The state of Sarawak has 36 nurses who specialise in oncology, where one of them was placed in Hospital Sibu, Sarawak.”