KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau has questioned the government’s RM8 million budget cut for disease control, despite Sabah facing polio and high dengue cases.
The UPKO lawmaker pointed out that as of December 6, Sabah has recorded a high number of dengue cases (3,895 cases), while polio cases were also reported earlier this year in Sabah, the country’s poorest state with the highest number of non-nationals.
“The government has to be serious and firm in eradicating Infectious diseases,” Tangau told the Dewan Rakyat during his debate on the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2021 budget at the committee stage.
“For that purpose, the government should add more staff to overcome public health issues,” the Tuaran MP stressed.
The allocation for disease control under public health in MOH’s 2021 budget was cut by RM8 million from RM843.7 million this year to RM835.7 million next year.
According to Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, in his written Parliamentary reply on November 3, after 27 years of Malaysia being polio free, a new polio case was reported in Sabah on December 8 last year and as of now, there are four confirmed polio cases in Sabah.
According to the Tuaran MP, part of the Covid-19 RT-PCR samples in Sabah still have to be sent to peninsular Malaysia to be processed, using the Royal Malaysian Airforce, which he said was inefficient and took a long time.
“I’d like to ask the minister, has the ministry ever done an estimated cost for sending the samples?
“Does the minister realise that the cost of sending also involves the rakyat’s money, and is not efficient and takes a long time? Is it not prudent for the government to further increase testing capacity in Sabah by upgrading the existing laboratories in Sabah?” Tangau said.
He stressed that by increasing Covid-19 testing capacity in Sabah, the expenses incurred can be reduced, besides speeding up the process to get test results and increasing efficiency in public health intervention that is based on results obtained at the right time.
According to Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, during one of the special chamber sessions in Parliament in November, the majority of Covid-19 samples from Sabah, which are processed in peninsular Malaysia, takes up to five days to produce results.
Papar Hospital Has Fewer Than 100 Beds
Papar MP Ahmad Hassan separately urged the Health Ministry to increase Papar Hospital’s capacity, especially by increasing the number of wards that have to accommodate many patients at one point, including the elderly and children.
“With fewer than 100 beds, as a people’s representative, I don’t think Papar Hospital is able to provide Class A health care service to the people of Papar,” Ahmad said during his debate on MOH’s budget at the committee stage yesterday.
“This aspect of development should be emphasised by the MOH, as the Sabah state government led by Hajiji [Noor] does not have a special minister in charge of state health affairs.”
Ahmad pointed out that Papar Hospital did not have any dental services that are essential for children and the elderly.
Besides that, he said that in MOH’s budget, there was no specific allocation given to Sabah specifically.
“From the 24 public hospitals in Sabah, how many hospitals will the government look at for the purpose of upgrading these hospital facilities? What is the estimated expenditure prepared and what aspects of the upgrade are considered best?” the Papar MP said.
The Warisan MP asked the health minister if the government plans to create a specialist clinic for heart and kidney follow-ups, as many patients from the rural areas face logistical issues when they have to travel all the way to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu or Beaufort Hospital, just to get a check-up for cardiac problems or for haemodialysis.
“Papar Hospital isn’t a specialist hospital, for your information, Honourable Minister.”
He also asked for a solution from the health minister to deal with the insufficient medication supply that is a serious issue and is faced by many rural clinics in Sabah.
Sabah Needs More Human Resources
Ahmad also stressed that Sabah requires more manpower in health services and urged MOH to place health officers in critical hospitals in Sabah.
He said it is essential that Sabah gets more health staff to ensure even Covid-19 patients get focused treatment, like what is being done in the peninsula.
“My question is — how many contract health officers in public hospitals in Sabah will be given a permanent position in 2021?
“What is the ministry’s reason for not automatically offering permanent appointments to contract officers who were involved directly with Covid-19 care, after the Sabah state elections?” the Warisan lawmaker said.
Dr Noor Azmi, when winding up the debate on MOH’s budget, did not answer Tangau’s or Ahmad’s questions in the House yesterday.
Despite a heated debate, the Dewan Rakyat approved MOH’s budget at the committee stage through a voice vote, as Opposition MPs did not call for a bloc vote.