Sarawak Patients Travel Hundreds Of Kilometres For Medical Treatment

Sibu MP Oscar Ling Chai Yew said Sibu and Miri residents are forced to travel to Kuching for radiotherapy and cardiac treatment, resulting in fatalities for many cardiac patients.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 — Sibu MP Oscar Ling Chai Yew has called for the creation of radiotherapy and cardiac units at Sibu and Miri Hospitals to improve treatment access for central and northern Sarawak patients, eliminating the need to travel to Kuching Hospital.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker, who is currently serving his third term, urged the government to consider forming more radiotherapy units in Sarawak to not only improve treatment access for patients in these areas, but to decongest Kuching Hospital.

Ling proposed the establishment of two radiotherapy units, one each in Sibu and Miri Hospitals. While Sibu is nearly 400km away from Kuching, taking about five hours by car, Miri, located over 800km from Kuching, takes around 11 hours by car to reach.

“We need a radiotherapy unit. Right now, the majority of cancer patients have to go to Kuching to undergo radiotherapy. There is none in Sibu. There is none in Miri. The only one is in Kuching. So, I hope the government or the ministry will consider forming a radiotherapy unit in Sibu Hospital and also Miri Hospital. This is very important and will also overcome the congestion in Kuching Hospital. 

“If the patient can undergo their treatment in Sibu Hospital or Miri Hospital, they don’t have to go to Kuching Hospital to undergo their treatment, and this will decrease congestion,” said Ling during his debate on Budget 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat today. 

Apart from the radiotherapy unit, Ling is urging the coalition government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to construct a cardiac unit in Sibu Hospital to prevent heart patients from being sent to Kuching Hospital for treatment. According to the Sibu MP, the lengthy travel time has led to many fatalities among heart patients.

“The Pakatan Harapan government, in principle, has continued and promised to allocate RM30 million to build a cardiac unit at Sibu Hospital. This is done by building a new extension to create an invasive cardiac lab. 

“I hope the government will continue this effort so that we have a cardiac unit in Sibu to overcome the cardiologist shortage in Sibu that has resulted in many cardiac patients being sent to Kuching Hospital to undergo surgery or for emergency cases. 

“This has caused many cardiac patients to be unable to be sent to Kuching, and in the end, they die in Sibu, and I hope this will be overcome as quickly as possible. And I also want the ministry to give the latest statistics on the number of patients that could not be sent to Kuching, and they die because of heart disease.”

The Borneo Post online reported yesterday that Ling is determined to push for the cardiac unit’s creation in Sibu Hospital, even though the hospital currently does not have an invasive cardiac lab nor a heart surgeon.

The cardiac catheterization laboratory is a dedicated facility where various invasive cardiac procedures are conducted, such as coronary and peripheral angiograms, angioplasties/ stents, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, balloon valvuloplasty, and endomyocardial biopsies.

Apart from constructing physical infrastructure, Lim said that members of the public have also expressed interest in donating angiogram machines. He asked the Ministry of Health (MOH) whether there is a mechanism in place to facilitate the acceptance of such donations and to form a team capable of operating the machines at the hospital.

“Currently, many people in Sibu have expressed interest in donating an angiogram machine to Sibu Hospital. Therefore, I would like to ask the ministry about the mechanism in place for Sibu Hospital to accept the donated angiogram machine and to establish a team capable of operating it.

“Right now, there is an individual who is willing to donate. I hope the ministry can consider this proposal and work towards forming an angiogram unit at Sibu Hospital,” Ling said.

Ling also hopes that the government will consider upgrading both Sibu Hospital in and Miri Hospital into regional hospitals. 

“I also hope that Sibu Hospital and Miri Hospital can be upgraded to regional hospitals. This way, not only Kuching Hospital will be considered a regional hospital in Sarawak. Instead, we can upgrade the existing Sibu and Miri Hospitals, rather than building new ones.

“This is to show that Sarawak and Sabah – Sabah in Tawau, in Sandakan, we could also upgrade hospitals there to regional hospitals – that we are territories. We are not just states in Malaysia, but we are territories.” 

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