MP: MOH Must Help Sarawak Clinics Facing Medicine Shortages

Dr Kelvin Yii warns the government of a potential crisis, noting that some conditions are life-threatening if patients can’t get medications immediately.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 – Dr Kelvin Yii today called for immediate intervention from the federal Ministry of Health (MOH) to assist health care facilities in Sarawak, or other states, that are running low on medicine supplies.

The Bandar Kuching MP highlighted the case of the private Children and Heart Specialist Clinic in Miri that complained about running out of common paediatric medications, including salbutamol syrups to treat acute or severe asthma, since a week ago. 

He also noted remarks from Sarawak Deputy Premier Dr Sim Kui Hian, who said that some private clinics in the city of Miri have already stopped seeing patients after their drug supplies ran out.

“This is a ‘serious medical predicament’ or even possibly a crisis if not dealt with immediately as our patients will continue to suffer and, in the worst-case scenario, may lead up to unwanted consequences as some of these conditions are life-threatening if the patients are unable to obtain the necessary medications immediately,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.

Asthma attacks can be serious and may also be fatal.

“Since last week, I have warned that this issue is slowly rippling through the system now, and it’s only a matter of time before the public really feels it, especially once the stockpiles are gone, including generic drugs, then it may be too late to do anything,” added Dr Yii.

The DAP lawmaker suggested creating a public-private sharing mechanism for public health care facilities to either sell or loan medicine supplies to private facilities pending the delivery of stocks for the latter, pointing out that Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously said medicine supplies in government clinics and hospitals are sufficient.

He also proposed that MOH create a mechanism, for certain critical medications, to enable private medical practitioners to issue prescriptions for their patients, who can then get their prescriptions filled at government pharmacies – either for free or at a charge – without needing to undergo referral and consultation at public clinics or hospitals.

For this, Dr Yii proposed setting the type of prescription pad and format for public health care facilities needed to accept and fill medical prescriptions from the private sector.

“On top of that, after the extensive audit of medical stocks, there should be a system

where prescriber can see where the stocks are available and list down the places so they know where to refer patients to.”

Dr Yii, who also chairs the Dewan Rakyat special select committee of health, science and innovation, stressed that “this is no ordinary medicine shortage”, amid global pharmaceutical supply chain issues triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, China’s recent lockdowns, and the Russia-Ukraine war.

“That is why since the beginning, I urged MOH for a clear policy to address the current shortage of medicines on top of a longer-term ‘national medicine security strategy’ to be devised to prevent future drug shortages in Malaysia, given the country’s current vulnerable position as a net importer of pharmaceutical products.”

Malaysia’s entire supply of finished pharmaceutical products is either directly imported or indirectly imported for local manufacture via the import of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) – the active component of a drug.

Khairy’s office and the Sarawak state health department, which is under the federal MOH, have yet to issue a statement in response to the Children and Heart Specialist Clinic’s plea for assistance from Miri Hospital, an MOH facility, to share medicine supplies with it.

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