Medical group, UNHCR join hands to open healthcare centre for refugees

(From left) Global Doctors Malaysia executive chairman Dr Sharifah Fauziah and managing director Dr Navindra Nageswaran, UNHCR representative Thomas Albrecht and associate public health officer Dr Susheela Balasundram at the MoU signing ceremony today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Medical group Global Doctors Malaysia (GDM) is collaborating with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to open the first medical care centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia.

The centre at Global Doctors Hospital in Mont Kiara here provides free primary healthcare consultancy, diagnostic and imaging services including X-rays, CT scans and mammogram.

Patients, however, will have to pay for their medications.

Speaking to reporters at an MoU signing today, UNHCR representative Thomas Albrecht said the clinic is open to refugees registered with UNHCR.

Albrecht said there are about 180,000 registered refugees with the majority coming from Myanmar. While they have access to public and private healthcare, he said, they face problems of cost, fear of movements, and language limitations.

He said the initiative will benefit those especially around the Mont Kiara area, extending to Kepong and Segambut, which cater to a refugee population of close to 10,000.

The centre is run and fully funded by GDM, a private medical institute affiliated with medical practice group Global Doctors, headquartered in Australia.

Open from 4pm to 7pm daily except on Sundays, it provides services for both communicable and non-communicable diseases, GDM chairman Dr Sharifah Fauziah said.

“It’s normal health problems like common flu but not chronic diseases that require intensive care treatment,” she said.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Andrew Mohanraj said diagnostic services for mental health problems are also available.

“Refugees have a tendency to develop psychological problems that could lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism,” he told FMT.

Consultatations at the centre will be carried out in three foreign languages – Arabic, Urdu and Burmese.

UNHCR associate public health officer Dr Susheela Balasundram said the agency is focusing on the Mont Kiara centre although it is possible similar centres will be set up in other parts of the country.

UNHCR also said the partnership is a good example of private sector involvement in reducing the burden on the public healthcare system, while ensuring that marginalised communities get the healthcare they need.