Reflections For 2023 – Boo Su-Lyn

I’m deeply honoured that the medical fraternity across the public and private sectors chose to place their trust in CodeBlue to make their voices heard.

CodeBlue will enter our fifth year of operations in 2023.

Looking back, it has been quite an amazing journey since I started CodeBlue with Azrul Mohd Khalib (head of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy) in early 2019, having gone through different governments – from Pakatan Harapan (PH) to Perikatan Nasional, Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration, and now, the PH-led unity government under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

CodeBlue has exceeded 13.3 million all-time views since 2019 – something I never dreamed of when I left a stable job at a mainstream media organisation to create a niche news portal focusing exclusively on health care.

When we started CodeBlue, we intended to create a news website that would report complex health care issues and policies in an understandable manner to laypeople, so as to empower ordinary Malaysians to understand problems in the health care system and to demand for better quality health care.

Incidentally, code blue is a universal hospital code that signifies a medical emergency involving an adult in the hospital, usually cardiac or respiratory arrest — a rather apt description of Malaysia’s health care system that has suffered chronic underfunding for decades.

For too long, Malaysians have been trapped in a Faustian bargain on health care. Get so-called “free” health care (not actually free since it’s paid for by taxpayers) in exchange for being “grateful” and shutting up about serious problems that put their own lives at risk when they enter the health care system.

Meanwhile, health care professionals in the public sector, from doctors to nurses and allied health care workers, are trapped in Stockholm syndrome. They are often made martyrs of and guilt-tripped – by their own seniors, high-ranking civil servants, politicians, and the general public – into working till they drop, even though they know that overwork potentially harms the patients they care for.

CodeBlue is independent – we are not partisan towards any political party. We work with legislators and policymakers on both sides of the aisle who are involved with or are interested in health care issues.

I think that over the past four years, we have been consistent in raising various health care issues, regardless of who was the government of the day, to push for public discourse, solutions, and better health policies.

A laser focus on health, via CodeBlue, helps to make health “political” – political in the sense of demanding accountability that leads to improved public policies in health, like how health is an election issue in mature democracies like the UK and US.

Malaysia is not there yet, but things will only get better when Malaysians gain health literacy and expect more from their government.

The doctors are not okay. Countless whistleblowers, mostly government doctors, have written or spoken to CodeBlue over the years.

I’m deeply honoured that the medical fraternity across the public and private sectors chose to place their trust in CodeBlue to make their voices heard.

Your brave decision to speak up – especially in advocating for health-illiterate patients who may not be aware or are unable to exercise their right to better health care – goes a long way in improving the system, bit by bit. The patient is always the centre of the health care system.

At CodeBlue, we prioritise op-eds and analyses from contributors from the medical fraternity as much as our original reportage. This involves forging close relationships with health care professionals and medical experts – hence, our readers are also our partners in the fight for a better health care system.

We do not treat our readers as passive consumers of “content” (I really hate that word).

2023 looks to be full of challenges, as the world may possibly experience some sort of Groundhog Day with the huge Covid wave in China. The Anwar administration will also be tested on its will to implement radical health reforms, instead of postponing painful but crucial legislations and policies to the next term.

CodeBlue will continue to hold the government of the day accountable for its health policies. Thank you, dear readers and partners from the medical fraternity, for going on this journey along with us.

Boo Su-Lyn is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of CodeBlue.

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