Hand over health matters to Sabah, Sarawak, urges think tank

Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib says the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) needs to take better care of the needs of the people in East Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: The Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy today urged the federal government to hand over control of healthcare services to East Malaysia, as promised in Pakatan Harapan’s 14th general election manifesto.

The independent think-tank, dedicated to discussing health and social issues, said East Malaysians support the return of decision-making on health matters to their state governments.

Galen had organised a healthcare conference titled “Healthcare in East Malaysia: Ensuring that no one is left behind” in Kuching today.

In a statement today, Galen Centre chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said it was clear from the various discussions at the conference today that Sarawakians and Sabahans want to take matters into their own hands when it comes to health.

“Giving healthcare autonomy to the people of Sarawak and Sabah was a cornerstone pledge of the Pakatan Harapan government’s manifesto,” Azrul said.

The manifesto’s Promise 44, “Improving the quality of education and healthcare services”, states that “the Sabah and Sarawak governments will be given decision-making rights in education and health matters”.

Focusing on access, coverage and quality of health services in Sabah and Sarawak, the conference also aimed to ensure that the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) takes better care of the needs of the people there.

The conference touched on issues such as bridging the critical infrastructure gap, improving the quality of treatment and cancer treatment access in East Malaysia.

Azrul called for the 12th Malaysia Plan to make priority investments in healthcare infrastructure in Sabah and Sarawak.

He said more than a third of the population in Sarawak and Sabah continue to live beyond 5km of any kind of health facility and had to travel for hours to seek treatment.

Azrul said East Malaysia’s size and scattered population posed unique problems in providing effective healthcare services.

“There is a need for more health infrastructure facilities in rural areas and strengthening of existing services.

“Most importantly, they must be staffed by sufficient skilled healthcare workers.

“There is no single or easy answer for many of these challenges.

“But it is obvious that we need to look for out-of-the-box solutions as the usual way of doing things is inadequate. People in these two states are being left behind.”

Azrul said Sabah and Sarawak should be given the power to decide on infrastructural projects to improve health facilities and placement of medical professionals.