Amar: MOH’s Children Services Should Cover Ages 12 To 17

MOH’s current policy that only recognises those under the age of 12 as children must change, as children and adolescents must be seen in appropriate child-friendly health facilities.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 – Health services for children at public hospitals should include adolescents aged 12 to 17, in line with national laws and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that define every human below the age of 18 as a child, a paediatrician said.

Senior consultant paediatrician and researcher Dr Amar-Singh HSS said despite the government’s recognition that all persons under the age of 18 are children, many agencies and legislation deny this reality, including the Ministry of Health (MOH).

“The MOH is long overdue in recognising that those aged 12 to 17 years are children. These children are usually admitted to adult wards, and frighteningly and traumatically placed next to ill 50 to 70-year-old adults.

“They are also seen in adult-based clinics, often by individuals who lack adequate training in dealing with adolescents. The development of targeted and appropriate services for adolescents who make up about 15 per cent of the population has been limited,” Dr Amar said at the Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia’s (MLSM) “Speaking for the Unspoken — Children of a Lesser God” webinar on Saturday.

The MOH’s current policy that only recognises those under the age of 12 as children must change to accept the reality that children and adolescents need to be placed and seen in appropriate child-friendly health facilities under the care of those trained for their needs.

Dr Amar said all hospitals must have adolescent wards and clinics manned by clinicians and staff trained in their care.

“For example, much of my training was not just in young children but also in adolescents as many paediatricians do. So MOH needs to change this recognition of age and then provide the services,” Dr Amar said.

He further pointed out that health services for children, in general, are not on par with health services for adults. “While adult curative speciality and intensive care (ICU) services have grown by leaps and bounds, services for children have only grown incrementally.

“ICU services for children are grossly inadequate,” Dr Amar said. “Some premature infants may not be offered care when beds are limited — this happens most days of the year in most MOH hospitals.”

Dr Amar said there is an urgent need to accelerate the development of tertiary speciality services for children, and significantly grow paediatric ICU (PICU) and neonatal ICU (NICU) beds to meet acceptable norms.

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