KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin has urged Health Minister Dr Adham Baba to break down the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2021 budget according to states.
The DAP lawmaker noted that in Budget 2021 that was tabled in Parliament last Friday, there was no breakdown according to states under MOH’s RM31.9 billion budget.
“I am requesting for the Minister of Health to give the information on the breakdown, especially Sabah that really needs the allocation,” Chan said during his debate on Budget 2021 at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
He suggested that the RM85.5 million allocation for the Special Affairs Department (JASA), under the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, be transferred to Sabah instead, specifically to develop health care facilities in the country’s poorest state.
“Isn’t Sabah, which is an equivalent partner in the establishment of Malaysia, more deserving of more financial resources, compared to the propaganda unit of the ruling party?
“I will support the 2021 Budget if there is this amendment!” the DAP lawmaker said.
Chan pointed out that Sabah has already been facing problems with its health care system even before the Covid-19 pandemic. More than one-third of the state’s population live more than 5km away from any form of health facilities.
Furthermore, Chan said Sabah lacks specialists and medical supplies, and that the state’s 24 public hospitals and 300 government health clinics (Klinik Kesihatan) cannot accommodate the rakyat’s needs.
The Sabahan lawmaker pointed out that the ratio of doctors to the population in Sabah was one doctor for every 856 residents, wider than the 1:454 national ratio.
“However, the question is, what are the federal government’s plans and actions to bridge the gap between Sabah’s and the national public health care system in the long run?” the Kota Kinabalu MP said.
“After the pandemic is under control, the government should extend the health agenda so that people in Sabah can enjoy better quality health facilities.”
Chan urged the government to construct new health facilities in Sabah, upgrade current ones, and introduce a special scheme in the state so that needy people can get optimum access to health services. Although treatment in the public health system is heavily subsidised, the lack of coverage in states like Sabah, the second largest state in the country with a land area of nearly 73,904 sq km, means that people have to fork out money on transport and accommodation when travelling to hospitals located hours away from their homes. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sabah’s public tertiary referral hospital, is located in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu.
To increase primary care coverage in rural areas, Chan asked the government to provide mobile clinics and reintroduce the Flying Doctor Service, a health care service provided via helicopters for the interiors, that was stopped by the state health department back in 2016.
Kota Belud MP Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis told Parliament Wednesday that Kota Belud Hospital beds were made up of wood and iron, which makes it very difficult to transfer patients as the bed legs did not have wheels.
Moreover, she also said that the operation theatres in district hospitals were modified rooms that did not follow standard evaluations, as the makeshift operation theatres were not running on centralised air-conditioners.
The Warisan lawmaker further revealed how Sabah frontliners used their own personal vehicles as a makeshift ambulance to transport patients located in the interior areas of Sabah to hospitals, such as in her own constituency of Kota Belud, during floods.
Overworked Frontliners During Sabah’s Covid-19 Crisis
Chan also highlighted how at one point during the Covid-19 pandemic, 72 per cent of intensive care units (ICUs) in Sabah hospitals were occupied, while government hospitals around Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan were forced to shutter their specialist clinics to focus on Sabah’s Covid-19 crisis.
“This may have caused some patients with chronic disease to not receive the appropriate treatment.”
The Kota Kinabalu MP also said due to the lack of good infrastructure, Covid-19 test kits, and hospital beds in Sabah, there were also reports that over 10,000 Covid-19 test samples were backlogged at one point.
When many health care workers got infected with Covid-19 in Sabah, healthy frontliners were forced to work overtime continuously, especially in hospitals around Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna, and Tawau, according to Chan.
Chan suggested that Sabahans receive priority in getting a Covid-19 vaccine, as Sabah is the current coronavirus epicentre in Malaysia during the third wave of the epidemic.
If the federal government manages to obtain supplies of Covid-19 vaccines by the first quarter of next year, however, the epidemic may shift from Sabah to other states. Sabah has been recording a decline of daily Covid-19 cases in the past week, while infections have risen steadily in the Klang Valley and Negeri Sembilan.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas reportedly told the state legislative assembly earlier today that the state government would ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines for all Sarawakians.