“You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know where to find it.”
This is one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein because it sums up how we must continue to humbly keep learning in the 21st century. While my primary challenge was to provide a strong strategic leadership for the Ministry of Health, to be able to put together the Health Advisory Council (HAC) is a prerequisite in that direction.
As obvious as it may seem, regrettably it took almost six months to get the HAC in place. That’s the stark reality when bureaucracy is resistant to new and novel ideas which oftentimes delay urgent and critical health reform.
Looking back, l felt privileged to have the advice and insight of the seven-member HAC. Chairing the council is former health director-general Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman, who is now the International Medical University (IMU) Group president.
The council also included Dr Kamal Mat Salih, Prof Dr Adeeba Kamaruzzaman, Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Dr Alex Mathews, Dr Yap Wei Aun, and Dr Jemilah Mahmood.
Besides the daily issues of health care delivery, both at the hospital and clinic level, l have also, at the outset, urged for the reform agenda to cover a period of one full parliamentary term, which is five years.
The HAC and l did a presentation for then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on October 14, 2019. Noting it as being ambitious, he nonetheless wanted it to be presented to the Cabinet in March 2020, and later to be tabled in Parliament.
Never did we imagine that the reform agenda of Sihat Bersama 2030 would not see the light of the day in Parliament, in the form that is with you now. The Pakatan Harapan government ended on February 24, 2020; on the cusp of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The Malaysian health care system that was once praised by the World Health Organization (WHO), especially for our excellent primary care services, has long relinquished its position as a benchmark for other middle-income economies.
Improvements in critical indicators of health and wellbeing have stagnated in the 21st century. The health care system is ill-suited for today, and it must be future proofed in managing both the pandemic of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The Sihat Bersama 2030 document, aptly described as a concept note by Dr Abu Bakar Sulaiman, is one such health imperative. it is a visionary reform agenda, well-articulated by Dr Yap and Prof Adeeba on the Human Resource for Health (HRH) strategy for Malaysia, and Health White Paper articles by Dr Musa Mohd Nordin are noteworthy documents to be perused by health policy stakeholders and researchers.
It is premised on the three pillars of reform, namely Public Sector Transformation, Private Sector Regulatory Reforms, and Sustainable Health Financing.
The paradigm of a technology and person-centric and integrated care delivery system, based on value and choice, supported within an ecosystem incorporating electronic health records, would be a commendable health care model.
We are also pleased to note that the Health White Paper that is being pursued by the current health minister is indicative of the reform agenda of Sihat Bersama 2030.
The MOH should diligently look into the mechanics of achieving the various strategic reforms and actionable delivery items in the concept note.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my heartfelt gratitude to the chair and members of the HAC for their amazing efforts. The publication of the concept note is surely a testament to their collective professional commitment.
Dzulkefly Ahmad is a former health minister.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.