KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii called for more decentralised health care decision making in Sarawak and Sabah, instead of having the federal government dictate policy.
The DAP lawmaker said he recently pitched to federal Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad about gathering all the heads of department and state consultants in charge of various aspects of public health care to discuss “rethinking health care in Sarawak”.
“The best people to give such suggestions is the doctors on the ground in Sabah and Sarawak because they will know, rather than decisions made in Putrajaya with the assumption that everything is homogenous, which is not,” Dr Yii said in a dialogue with Klang MP Charles Santiago at the Malaysian Medics International’s (MMI) “The Good Doctor: A Health Care Festival” at Publika here last Saturday.
He pointed out that, for example, the general policy of each state having one tertiary, secondary and primary hospital did not work for Sabah and Sarawak due to the east Malaysian states’ much larger mass size.
“Having one tertiary hospital in Sarawak is gravely insufficient,” said Dr Yii, referring to Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching that also hosts the state’s only public cancer centre.
“One of the reasons why patients in Sabah and Sarawak don’t want to go for treatment is because the distance is far – you travel 200km to get to a proper hospital. The amount you have to pay goes into hundreds of ringgit. You have to go through Brunei sometimes, you have to get a passport to get it done.
“For people in the kampung, most of them are farmers. For them to go to hospital, they lose their source of income,” the Sarawakian MP added.
He also cited the Sarawak state government’s statistics that almost half of public health clinics in the state, or 45 per cent, are not run by doctors as they only have nurses and medical assistants.
“Some of them do not have a stable source of electricity, some of them do not have water,” said Dr Yii.
He said although the Pan Borneo Highway project connecting Sabah and Sarawak was a welcome development in his state, construction may disrupt water supply to many villages.
“A lot of villagers undergoing dialysis, because they don’t have water, they have no choice but to go to the nearest stream or river to clean up. And we know how ‘clean’ that water is. As a result, they get secondary infection and they go back to the hospital,” said Dr Yii.
“Health care is not just the hospital infrastructure, but it is complementary with other basic necessities that we have to work on.”
Sarawak is currently run by Gabungan Parti Sarawak, while Pakatan Harapan holds the federal government. Health is under federal jurisdiction.