KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — The government plans to increase medical specialists in Sabah and Sarawak by building teaching hospitals and expanding cluster hospitals under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).
The government’s five-year plan from 2021 to 2025 aims to improve health care access in the two rural Borneo states by increasing health care personnel and improving facilities for health care services there.
Constructing teaching hospitals for Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak will be an essential supplementary measure to produce medical specialists in both states.
“The cluster hospital concept will be expanded to increase accessibility to specialists’ services,” according to the 12MP that was tabled by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in Parliament today.
Under the cluster hospitals concept, hospitals in specific geographical areas will be grouped together to optimise existing resources in district and specialist hospitals. At the same time, cluster hospitals are also aimed to improve quality and safety of clinical service delivery with minimal cost implication by reducing wastage.
Besides that, the states will get more medical equipment and patient transport service vehicles to improve access to health care facilities among East Malaysians.
“The number of mobile health services will be increased, while existing health care facilities will be upgraded.”
It is to be noted that the government targets to achieve a 1:400 doctor to population ratio in the country and 2.06 hospital beds per 1,000 population by 2025.
Sarawak and Sabah — which are collectively bigger in size than the peninsula — suffer a smaller distribution of doctors and specialists than peninsular Malaysia
As of December 2018, the official ratio of doctors to the population was 1:662 in Sarawak and 1:856 in Sabah. That shows a much smaller number of doctors per person in East Malaysia than the nationwide average of 1:454.
A total of 45.6 per cent, or 98 out of 215 rural clinics in Sarawak, do not even have a doctor and are only run by medical assistants and nurses.
Under the 12MP, In Sabah, new health clinics will be built in Penampang and Beaufort, whereas Samarahan, Sarikei and Miri in Sarawak will also get new health facilities.
“Public health clinics, located far from hospitals, will be equipped with birth centres and observation room facilities as well as X-ray services.”
Furthermore, the government plans to increase research, development and innovation capacity in public health in Sabah and Sarawak.
So, under the 12MP, Sabah will see a new regional blood centre while in Sarawak, state public health and food safety laboratories will be built.
Sabah and Sarawak are in a dire need of equitable health care provision as they still lag behind the peninsula in terms of medical centres and amenities that raise the cost in accessing health care.