Bung Moktar: Prioritise Equality In Health Care Access, Not Anti-Smoking

Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin says one of the main reasons why Sabah is poor is the lack of health care access, telling Dr Zaliha Mustafa to prioritise equal access to health services instead of anti-smoking initiatives pushed by the previous minister.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 – Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin today told Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa to prioritise equal access to health care services, particularly in poor states like Sabah, instead of curbing smoking.

The Sabahan Umno lawmaker pointed out that Sabah is among the poorest states in the country with three of Malaysia’s most backward and poorest districts: Pitas, Kota Marudu, and Tongod; Tongod is within Bung’s constituency.

“Sabah is poor because of a few factors. The first factor is insufficient access to health care,” Bung told the Dewan Rakyat today during his debate on Budget 2023.

“There are health care centres and public health clinics (klinik kesihatan), but there are no specialist doctors, equipment, and the like.

“So the Ministry of Health (MOH) needs to look at this from the perspective of equality – how to improve health care nationwide – instead of looking at cigarettes and all sorts of things. That is not important. What is important is raising the quality of health care at all levels. That’s important.

“As a minister, you should look at this as a priority; don’t be swayed by the opinions of the past minister,” Bung told Dr Zaliha.

Dr Zaliha’s predecessor Khairy Jamaluddin, during his term in office as health minister, tried to ban cigarettes and tobacco and vape products for the next generation born from 2007, also known as the generational end game (GEG). However, the then-Ismail Sabri Yaakob government failed to get the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 through before the dissolution of the 14th Parliament.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is also finance minister, said when tabling Budget 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat last Friday that his administration supports the “spirit” of the GEG, even as he proposed a tax on e-cigarette and vape liquids containing nicotine to discourage vaping.

A specialist doctor recently wrote to CodeBlue to complain about deficiencies in basic facilities and infrastructure in a public tertiary hospital in Sabah, such as broken lifts, anaesthesia machines, and autoclave machines.

“In the major operating theatre, most of the machines for anaesthesia are more than 12 years old and are due for replacement. There was an incident where the machine to ventilate patients actually stopped working during an operation, causing doctors to scramble and use another device to manually ventilate the patient by bagging.

“Only after the incident was approval given to purchase a new one, but there is still no sign of it,” the specialist doctor wrote.

“The emergency department often overflows with patients, causing delay in ward admission and treatment of patients. The lack of intensive care unit (ICU) beds forces doctors to make the tough choice in having to deprive deserving patients of intensive care.”

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