MMA, Galen Centre welcome back ‘no-nonsense’ Dr Dzulkefly but warn of soaring public expectations

THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has congratulated Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad on returning to his old portfolio as Health Minister.

The body which boasts a membership of 10,000 medical practitioners – the largest in the country – further expressed confidence that the Kuala Selangor MP from Amanah will perform his duties well as he had done before.

“With his proven track record, experience and strong leadership qualities, we believe he is well-equipped to address the complex issues and challenges within the healthcare system,” MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz pointed out in a statement.

Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz

“MMA had a good working relationship with Dr Dzulkefly. He was willing to listen to the views of experts and held regular engagements with stakeholders on any policy decisions. He was also willing to make unpopular decisions when needed (like the smoking ban at eateries) to protect public health.

Elsewhere, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy also welcomed back Dr Dzulkefly as Malaysia’s 24th Health Minister but cautioned on the scale of challenges and expectations ahead.

Challenges increase multi-folds

“Dr Dzulkefly’s appointment shows the Prime Minister’s (PM) recognition of the need for experience, expertise and prioritisation to address the many significant short- and long-term challenges faced in the health portfolio,” justified Galen Centre’s CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib.

“Dr Dzulkefly will need to hit the ground running and will face a steep learning curve. There will be less patience, very little sympathy and cynicism among many stakeholders. The Health Minister must act to rebuild confidence, build alliances and regain trust.”

According to Azrul, the health challenges that Malaysia faces have grown increasingly larger and even worsened in some situations over the past year as evident from the two recommendations the Galen Centre made for consideration in Dr Dzulkefly’s first 100 days previously (during the 22-month-old Pakatan Harapan administration).

Azrul Mohd Khalib

Firstly, the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 needs to be shepherded until it passes the Dewan Negara, signed by the King and gazetted into the statute books and hence become law. Nothing should be taken for granted.

“Anything could happen to stall the progress of the bill. Somehow, this past year has seen the government becoming labelled as being pro-tobacco and pro-vape industry with many compromises and eroding of Malaysia’s obligations under the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” cautioned Azrul.

“The incoming minister needs to immediately act to repair the damage to Malaysia’s reputation.”

Secondly, Azrul stressed the need for Dr Dzulkefly to consider four critical issues: (i)finding a solution to sustainable healthcare financing; (ii) respond effectively to the crisis of non-communicable diseases; (iii) close the gap on mental health; and (iv) addressing the lack of preparedness to provide care for our ageing population.

“The previous minister (Dr Zaliha Mustafa) faced the same issues and they have not seen any improvement in the past year,” added Azrul. – Dec 12, 2023

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