By DR KELVIN YII
LETTER: The best way forward to address the lack of doctors and other healthcare deficiency in Sarawak is to have our healthcare autonomy returned to the State through Pakatan Harapan so that we can have a direct hand in both identifying the problem and also directly addressing it without going through the bureaucracy of the federal government.
While I applaud Dr Sim Kui Hian’s honesty in revealing the dire conditions in our clinics here in Sarawak including the lack of electricity and water supply to the clinics on top of the severe lack of doctors where there are 45% of the 209 clinics in Sarawak that are without doctors and most of them are manned only by assistant medical officers (MAs) and nurses, serious questions have to be asked on how the State government and Federal government allowed such an occurrence to happen which directly affects the quality of care afforded to the people of Sarawak especially those in the rural areas.
This lack is not a new issue, and this clearly shows the insincerity and inefficiency of the BN federal government especially as healthcare is under the purview of the federal government, to provide quality healthcare for all Sarawakians regardless of demographics or social status. That is why the best way for us to address this issue is through the return of healthcare autonomy to the State, so that we can better identify these issues while addressing directly based on the prerogative and decision of the State.
In our Pakatan Harapan manifesto if we win over federal power, there will be a full devolution of power in areas of education and healthcare where the State will then take responsibility of managing these 2 critical departments. There will be the return of healthcare decision rights as the over-centralised healthcare system has not been efficient enough to cater to the different health needs and demographics of Sarawakians.
Healthcare autonomy will deal with the 3 main pillars including financing, infrastructure development and also recruitment and placement of medical professionals in the State. Currently all these critical matters are under the purview of the federal government and we are at their mercy per se which has directly caused us to be at the condition that we are in.
For example, we will still need go through the federal government for them to allocate funds to build greater healthcare infrastructure, or even place more doctors in Sarawak to address the acute shortage of doctors in the State.
With autonomy, we can directly make decisions on that without the bureaucracy of the federal government. We can directly ensure that there are adequate resident doctors in all rural/district hospitals and clinics with upgraded facilities and medicines.
On top of that, the State has the prerogative to provide further incentives to retain doctors in the state and even attract doctors from other state to serve in Sarawak. This will be a step not just to retain our talents, but also attract the best of minds into our State which will directly improve the quality of care in the State and promote greater knowledge transference from these top minds to our local doctors and medical professionals.
We all share the same goal of seeing the improvement of the quality of healthcare in our State and that all Sarawakians regardless of demographic or background will have access to the best healthcare services. Thus I strongly believe that the best way forward with that is through healthcare autonomy that is promised under the Pakatan Harapan government.
• Dr Kelvin Yii is Special Assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, the Member of Parliament for Kuching