100 days of unity government: B grade for health

WHETHER the unity government wants to recognise it or not, the Malaysian healthcare system and the health of people in this country are currently in crisis, prompting think tank Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy to accord “three out of four stars or a B grade for its first 100 days”.

This is given that the relevant authorities have begun work on three of the four issues raised by the independent public policy research and advocacy organisation, the first of which is to address the exodus of healthcare workers from the Malaysian public healthcare system, hence potentially creating a massive haemorrhage of talent.

“We are pleased that the government has taken up the recommendation to form a multi-ministerial taskforce chaired by the Chief Secretary to the Government to look into this issue as part of essential public sector reforms,” the Galen Centre’s CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib pointed out.

Azrul Mohd Khalib

“It needs to look at long term plans to address both recruitment and staff retention. Town halls with healthcare workers beginning with doctors have also already been convened or are being planned, to listen, to consult, and find solutions. These consultations need to also include nurses, allied health workers, and assistant medical assistants.”

On the issue of congestion in hospital emergency departments (ED), Azizul said only through the effective implementation of the proposed Madani Medical Scheme could there be a real impact in significantly reducing the congestion seen in emergency departments.

“Allowing those eligible for the scheme to seek fully subsidised treatment and care at private general practitioner panel clinics rather than depend on the ED is a potential game changer,” he insisted “It can reduce the numbers of those seeking treatment at EDs. This should be rolled out as soon as possible.”

Thirdly, the Galen Centre is alarmed that for the first time in the country, the numbers of new vapers are now overtaking new smokers.

“The government has indicated that it wants to regulate and tax vape as well as support the intention to adopt the generational ban on smoking and cigarettes,” noted Azizul.

“The latest amended provisions of the proposed Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill as recommended by a Parliamentary Special Select Committee provide a better chance for adoption and passage of this legislation.”

Lastly, the Galen Centre expressed concern that the government has not begun a review or audit of the safety of our public healthcare facilities.

“A third of Malaysia’s public hospitals are more than a hundred years old. Several dozen have no fire certificates. In comparison, a private hospital would never be allowed to operate without one,” Azizul pointed out.

“Yesterday (March 16), a fire occurred in the Pharmacy Department of the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital (HTJS) where fire alarms did not go off and staff were unprepared. Recent floods in Johor have also damaged government clinics and facilities, causing loss of vital equipment and essential medicines.”

On such note, Azizul emphasised the need for the government to immediately implement an audit of all fire and related safety measures in all its healthcare facilities.

“It must also publicly release the independent committee report convened to investigate the 2016 Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA) fire which despite being declassified (six deaths were reported) and three health ministers later, remains unavailable for public scrutiny,” he added. – March 17, 2023


Main photo credit: Free Malaysia Today

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