Kuala Lumpur, 11 June 2018 – The six measures recently announced by Health Minister Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad are concrete steps towards ensuring the sustainability, consolidation and resilience of the Malaysian healthcare system. They address key priorities and gaps in current health service delivery which need immediate attention and action.
The focus on collaboration between institutions and on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of front-end services is smart and addresses immediate concerns related to strengthening the health workforce capacity and dealing with patient anxiety in accessing services. Simply addressing the challenge of improving patient waiting times through adoption of existing technologies, will be a confidence building measure. Ensuring adequate service time and maintaining quality of treatment at the same time however, will be the bigger challenge. The Ministry will need the public’s full support and understanding on this issue. The assembly-line approach to healthcare delivery continues to be a complex and evolving exercise.
Using a collaborative approach to increase specialised services to improve access for people in rural areas is encouraging. Such services remain largely urban-centric, requiring rural patients to repeatedly spend hours and travel long distances to seek treatment for chronic diseases such as cancer. This has consistently resulted in large non-medical costs to patients which has caused serious financial hardship, particularly for those of lower income. This has deterred such patients from seeking treatment.
We hope that the Ministry of Health in future measures will also share its plans to address the East Malaysia healthcare gap where there is an urgent need to bridge this urban-rural divide. 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. There is a need for more health infrastructure facilities in rural areas and strengthening of existing services, but most importantly in ensuring that they are staffed with sufficient skilled healthcare workers.
If these six measures are able to be firmly committed to and equipped with sufficient resources, the gains will be low-hanging but meaningful fruit whose wide-ranging impact will be able to demonstrate the new government’s ability to deliver on its promises to improve the health infrastructure.
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