KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 – Over 300 patients, doctors, nurses, organisations, and individuals across Malaysia have petitioned the government to exempt medical treatment from a 10km limit on travelling from one’s home.
They pointed out that at least 25 per cent and 15 per cent of residents in Sarawak and Sabah respectively live beyond 10km of any health care facility, with such inequality existing even in Selangor.
“This prohibition, if broadly implemented, risks causing harm and increases morbidity and mortality among those already living with a chronic illness or disease. This prohibition could deny them access to treatment and severely disrupt the continuity of care during this time of crisis,” said the petition launched by the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, a health think tank.
“Many of the specialised treatments for mental health and chronic conditions, such as those for cancer, heart ailments, rare diseases and even kidney disease are centralised in the Klang Valley, Penang and in other major urban areas,” the signatories added.
Explaining that some may need to travel more than 10km within their state or even to other states for medical attention, the signatories said that oftentimes, patients do not have alternatives to the treatment that they require, other than to travel to the specific hospitals.
“This prohibition risks putting thousands of patients across the country, at risk of not obtaining the necessary treatment and denying them the medical care that they need.”
Apart from that, they also said that as police are not medically trained or have experience in health care, asking patients to get authorisation from police before travelling places the authorities in an unfair position.
“A patient from Melaka, for example, who needs to travel to Kuala Lumpur to access her life-extending treatment to treat her breast cancer should only require a letter from her doctor and a confirmed appointment with her hospital. Public and private hospitals should set up hotlines specifically for this purpose.”
The petition was signed by 319 organisations and individuals, including groups such as the National Cancer Society of Malaysia; Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia; NCD Malaysia; All Women’s Action Society; The Council of Churches of Malaysia; College of Anesthesiologists, Academy of Medicine Malaysia; Women’s Aid Organisation; Refuge For The Refugees; Prostate Cancer Society Malaysia; Together Against Cancer Malaysia; InciSioN Malaysia; the Malaysian Health Coalition; the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia; and Pertubuhan Wanita Malaysia untuk Kawalan Tembakau dan Kesihatan (MyWATCH).
Hundreds of doctors, medical experts, as well as patients also have extended their support to the petition, as have Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.
The petition comes amid complaints that police checkpoints are turning away cancer patients, despite having proper documents for treatment, following the 10km rule that was imposed on March 31 under the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO).
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba gazetted a regulation to prohibit people from getting treated or buying medicines at facilities located more than 10km from their homes until April 14, amid the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia. The same restriction applies to purchasing food and daily necessities.