Rural areas in East Malaysia still lacking proper healthcare, says MP

Due to a lack of doctors, some rural clinics in Sarawak are run by medical assistants and nurses. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii reminded the health ministry today that greater investment into public healthcare is urgently needed due to a lack of healthcare workers in rural areas.

He said the health minister’s statement on Malaysia meeting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target for universal health coverage did not mirror the reality of healthcare services in the country.

“To use merely the ratio of doctors to patients to measure universal healthcare coverage in our country is not painting the full picture,” Yii said in a statement.

He added that a high ratio could mean there were more doctors in the Klang Valley while rural areas still lacked manpower.

Referring to the Auditor-General’s report in 2018, Yii said that Emergency & Trauma Departments (ETD) are understaffed, underfunded and overworked.

Dr Kelvin Yii.

Of the rural clinics in Sarawak, he noted 98 out of 215 do not have a doctor and are only run by medical assistants and nurses, which could lead to burn out and poor quality of care for patients.

To fully achieve the principle of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), other factors such as comprehensive population coverage, adequate healthcare services and affordable access to healthcare should also be taken into consideration, Yii said.

He added the health ministry must also consider ways to encourage healthcare workers to work in areas that lack proper medical facilities.

Yesterday, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba announced in parliament that Malaysia has sufficient healthcare workers with a ratio of one medical staff to 186 patients, which exceeded WHO’s 1:255 goal.

According to him, Malaysia currently has 71,041 doctors both in the public and private sectors, making it a ratio of one doctor to every 454 people.