Saturday, March 7, 2009

Malaysia needs to prioritize the HEALTH AGENDA – The Health Crisis in Sabah.

The recent press statement by the Singapore Government to invest $4billion Singapore dollars in Healthcare Infrastructure over the next 5 years and also the China's Cabinet government in announcing that the country will invest 850 billion yuan (S$187 billion) on improving the health care system over the next three years is a clear indication that these government puts the Health agenda as their top priority in this time of economic gloom.

The most interesting point in these stimulus packages is that both of these governments have made details and clearly indicated how are the billions of dollars are to be spent. On the top of the agenda will be including a revamp of public hospitals, redevelopment of older hospitals, medical centres, building new community hospitals and boosting capabilities in treating chronic diseases such as strokes, kidney failure and other age related conditions.

For eg in China, the central government is committed to commence construction of about 2,000 county- level hospitals over the next three years, with work scheduled to start this year. The goal is to ensure each county has at least one hospital operating at national standards.

There is a stark contrast as compared to Malaysia. The latest being, Petronas has built a 6- star private Medical Centre in the heart of the Klang Valley – called Prince Court Medical Centre . This centre mainly caters for medical tourism and high end paying medical clients in which a majority of Malaysians who are in the middle income bracket and below will not be able to enjoy there high rates of medical fees.

Therefore it is time for the government of Malaysia and Malaysia’s GLCs to review these issues in the upcoming or subsequent stimulus budgets in putting the country back on track. The government needs to put health as their top priority in their budget. As the saying goes – YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR WEALTH.

The second issue is - the critical healthcare delivery system in the State of Sabah with specific reference to the present crisis in Queen Elizabeth Hospital and many more remote areas which have yet to benefit from a local district hospital. I believe there are many real life stories that are being mentioned of how the present crisis has caused great grief and pain to patients either waiting for long hours for elective surgery and of course those who required acute / emergency management due to MotorVehicleAccidents or rapid deterioration of health.

The population of Sabah and Singapore is quite close in terms of figures i.e Sabah (3.4 Million) and Singapore (3.8 Million). Once Sabah and Singapore were partners in forming the Malaysian Federation 1963, now the former struggles to have a state/regional hospital while the later boast of the state of the art medical services to adequately serve both the local population and also the tourist who throngs into the country state to seek medical treatment. This is also in contrast to where Singapore can boast to be the most affluent state country in the Asia Pacific Region if not in the world while Sabah as according the 9th Malaysian Plan (9MP) is the second poorest state in Malaysia after Kelantan. To make matters worst, at least Kelantan can boast of a well established USM Medical School and a University Hospital that would cater the health needs of the people of Kelantan, as compared to Sabah, we are still waiting for the completion of a University Hospital in UMS whilst still waiting for the first foundation stone to be laid for the new regional/tertiary hospital.

I believe the health issue in Sabah should not be politicized because it has become well beyond critical. Rather the people of Sabah deserves to know how many billions that the government is going to pour into the health needs in Sabah , after all many billions of oil and gas revenue has been extracted from Sabah for the noble course of nation building.

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