KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed wide gaps in health resources like infrastructure and manpower between Sabah and the peninsula, said Kota Belud MP Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis.
The former energy, science, technology, environment and climate change deputy minister revealed that frontliners used their own personal vehicles as a makeshift ambulance to transport patients located in the interior areas of Sabah to hospitals.
“Since March this year, when the pandemic took place, logistical needs like the transportation of patients from their homes, especially from the interior areas, posed a great challenge,” Isnaraissah Munirah said while debating Budget 2021 in Parliament yesterday.
“Take Kota Belud as an example. There’ll be flash floods for almost two to three months and the frontline teams have to use their own four-wheel-drive as an ambulance to be able to cross the floods.”
Isnaraissah Munirah posted on Facebook that on October 21, her service centre worked with the 4×4 Association to help transport a patient in an emergency from the woman’s home in Kampung Pituru Darat, which suffered a flood, to the hospital. The hospital sent an ambulance that had to be pulled along by a four-wheel-drive to get through the flood waters, successfully transporting the patient to hospital.
While the Ministry of Health (MOH) has allocated RM157.88 million in 2020 to Sabah and Sarawak to replace obsolete medical equipment, Isnaraissah Munirah told the Dewan Rakyat that Kota Belud still has wooden iron hospital beds without wheels on the bed legs.
“Change the old beds made up of wood and iron in the hospital. During this pandemic time, it is very difficult to bring or change the positions of the beds as the bed legs do not have wheels. This is still happening in Kota Belud Hospital.”
Sabah Needs Public Health Lab
The Warisan lawmaker also proposed to build a molecular laboratory in Tawau to accommodate the heavy workload of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, as well as a Sabah state public health laboratory.
“This will save the transportation costs of carrying samples and the results can also be announced much faster.”
Isnaraissah Munirah also highlighted the lack of pulse oximetry machines in Kota Belud Hospital to measure the oxygen level in the blood. She pointed out that a large number of patients there experienced difficulty in breathing.
The Opposition MP further mentioned that the manual patient database system “wastes a lot of time” and proposed to digitise it.
Last year, the-then Pakatan Harapan government proposed an electronic medical record (EMR) system throughout the country, including a Master Patient Index, to record one’s lifetime medical history.
Then-Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad had mentioned that the government must undertake key tech reforms to support the management of population health, to improve patient’s experience of care by enabling continuity of care and seamless transfer of information between caregivers, as well as to reduce the per capita cost of health care.
Modified Operation Theatres Not Up To Standard, Permanents Posts Needed For Sabah Health Workers
District hospitals in Sabah also used modified rooms as operation theatres, according to Isnaraissah Munirah. She mentioned that the surgeons who come over to perform operations in district hospitals often reprimanded hospital management for the poor condition of the operating theatres.
“When there are international evaluations, like the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), the answer that is often given is that it is not up to standard because they’re still using split air-conditioners, not centralised air-conditioners.”
At the same, Isnaraissah Munirah emphasised the need to provide permanent posts in the public sector to health care workers, including doctors, nurses, assistant medical officers, lab technicians, and supporting staff in Sabah district hospitals.
“The government plans to provide new positions. However, the breakdown of staff is unknown. It is unreasonable for contract officers who are currently employed and expecting an expiration of contract this December, not being absorbed into the service and instead, new officers are appointed in 2021,” Isnaraissah said. “This shows that new MOH officers are very much needed.”
“In fact, some contract officers in Sabah given the option to become permanent officers were told to work in other states this December.”Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, Member of Parliament for Kota Belud
It is to be noted that the government has approved a one-off six-month contract extension in September, following a previous six-month contract in April, to 2,070 government doctors, dentists, and pharmacists, amid a surge of Covid-19 cases nationwide.
Medical Assistance Fund For Sabahans, Boarding At General Hospitals
Isnaraissah Munirah suggested establishing a special medical assistance fund for Sabah to assist patients from the interior areas of the state who need to travel to hospitals far away. Sabah is the second biggest state in the country with a land area of nearly 73,904 sq km; its tertiary referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, is located in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu.
She told the Dewan Rakyat that the financial assistance would cover their transportation and accommodation expenses, since those who undergo day care procedures need to fork out money for accommodation.
“It might not be too much for me to suggest that the government build boarding (asrama) for patients in general hospitals for patients who travel from far and are in the B40 (bottom 40 per cent) category.”
Subspecialty specialists need to be more valued with attractive salaries in the public sector because they are crucial for the development of Malaysia’s medical sector, Isnaraissah Munirah added, pointing out that many of them have switched to the private sector because they are under-recognised and under-paid.
The Kota Belud MP also called for greater investments into primary care prevention and public health.
CodeBlue earlier reported that west coast peninsular Malaysia had two to 18 times more specialists compared to Sarawak, and between three and 33 times more than Sabah, across the anaesthesiology, surgery, orthopaedic surgery, medicine, paediatrics, and obstetrics and gynaecology departments, based on 2010 data from the Clinical Research Centre.
“I am not a doctor, but this is what is happening in Sabah. It is not too much for me to say that this pandemic has clearly captured the wide gap in health facilities between us. We are also Malaysians who built this country together,” said Isnaraissah Munirah.