Putrajaya urged to do more for healthcare in Sabah, Sarawak

PETALING JAYA: Two Borneo MPs have urged Putrajaya to pay closer attention to the healthcare needs of Sabah and Sarawak, especially in rural areas which are still in dire need of basic healthcare facilities.

Nancy Shukri.

Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri and Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitingan referred to the case of Kam Agong highlighted by FMT, which they said exemplified the daily struggles faced by people in rural areas.

Kam Agong, from Long Semadoh in rural Sarawak, bled to death in 2002 after giving birth by C-Section at Lawas District Hospital, the nearest maternity facility, five hours away.

Her daughter and son-in-law sued the hospital for medical negligence and won. Since then, pregnant mothers from Long Semadoh have been redirected to Miri hospital instead, which is about 10 hours away by four-wheel-drive and bus.

Nancy said it was a timely reminder for the federal government to look into the requests of Sarawak MPs through their debates in Parliament, especially since Putrajaya had acknowledged Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia.

She voiced hope that the new government would continue and improve the previous administration’s efforts to provide better healthcare for those in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Healthcare is a matter under the federal government. Every citizen has the right to health, education and safety.

“Since the Works Minister, Baru Bian, is from Ba’kelalan, it is our hope that he will continue pushing not only for Lawas Hospital but also other hospitals, clinics and schools to be on par with other states in Peninsular Malaysia,” she told FMT.

Jeffrey Kitingan.

Jeffrey meanwhile urged Putrajaya to give Sabah and Sarawak autonomy in managing and planning their health and education systems.

“But this requires money, and the government must pay Sabah and Sarawak our revenue rights as enshrined under the Federal Constitution, something it has failed to do over the last 55 years.

“If this was done, Sabah and Sarawak would be able to fill the development gaps and shortcomings in the areas of health and education.”

Think tank Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy highlighted the urgent need to address what it called “decades-old gaps” and the dearth of basic services in the states’ rural areas.

“More than a third of the population in Sabah and Sarawak continue to live beyond 5km of any kind of health facility and have to travel for hours to seek treatment,” said Galen chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib.

Azrul Mohd Khalib.

He said former health director-general Dr Ismail Merican had proposed the decentralising of healthcare management to regional centres such as Sabah and Sarawak to better address the needs of communities, especially those in rural areas.

He said this would be in line with Pakatan Harapan’s election pledge to give the two states greater autonomy.

“Decentralising could improve the quality and coverage of healthcare, especially if there is a favourable outcome of the oil royalties issue.”