The Ministry of Health’s action of sending obsolete, non-functional ventilators to Sibu is definitely not acceptable. In the eyes of the people of Sarawak, it reflects very badly on how the Federal Ministry treats the state.
The explanation why obsolete machines were sent instead of new ones is not credible. If they are so fragile, why bother sending them at all?
The ministry must investigate this matter and provide a satisfactory explanation. This is necessary in order for Sarawakians to regain trust in the system.
At the same time, the ministry should also disclose how many ventilators have been purchased by them since the start of the pandemic, and where have they been distributed, particularly, how many new units were sent to Sarawak.
Hospital facilities in Sarawak in general, and the Rajang Basin in particular are lacking in facilities. Sibu hospitals face a shortage of equipment and have to resort to borrowing from private hospitals.
The pandemic has revealed the serious lack of investments and a lack of priority for hospitals in Sarawak as compared to Malaya.
For example, ventilators in Sibu Hospital are more than 10 years old, and have been written off.
This means that they have been deemed obsolete and should not be repaired if broken, and instead, must be replaced with new ones.
Sadly, requests for replacements have fallen on deaf ears.
I believe the only way for a fairer relationship to be established between Sarawak and the federal government is for full autonomy over health care to be returned to the Sarawak state government.
This must include a fairer distribution of the budget allocated to Sarawak in the annual budget. I have raised this issue during my maiden speech and again during last year’s debate on the Supply Bill in the Senate.
The people of Sibu has been very generous in donating necessary equipment to Sibu Hospital over the last year. Even the two PCR testing machines were donated by private companies.
The Sarawak government also recently bought three new ventilators for Sibu Hospital and private companies have also donated two units to Sibu Hospital and Kapit Hospital.
Why must we continue to buy our own equipment when we also pay tax to the federal government?
The finance ministry should allow for full tax relief for donors for the amount of money spent on purchasing donated equipment.
Robert Lau Hui Yew is a Dewan Negara Senator.
This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.