KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Health and People’s Well-being Minister Stephen Wong says the Flying Doctor Service (FDS) in Sabah which ceased operations two years ago will be revived, although the coverage will not be as extensive as before.
The service in Sabah was terminated in 2016 after 41 years of operations, affecting thousands of rural villages across nine districts. It was run by Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd whose contract ended that year.
Speaking to FMT, Wong said it had always been the intention of the new Sabah government to restart the FDS as there were many places in the state which were not easily accessible.
“The service was terminated in 2016 because the contract expired. Furthermore, we noticed that the cost of maintaining the service was too high, at around RM7 million a year.
“Out of the total costs, RM4 million was for the purpose of ‘holding’ a helicopter. This means that the helicopter cannot be used for any other purposes and must be on standby mode in case it is needed by the FDS.”
Wong said the government had decided to continue with the service but at a lower rate by cutting down on unnecessary provisions such as the helicopter for emergency use.
He said the government had on two occasions called for interested parties to tender for the service, but neither candidate could fulfil the requirements.
He said his ministry would be looking for other ways to reintroduce the service, and would call for another tender soon.
“We cannot say when it will be revived, but we hope we can achieve it before the year ends.”