Malaysian doctors celebrate National Doctors Day in Sabah

A volunteer dentist working on a patient's teeth at the medical outreach camp on Oct 12, 2019. — Photos: FPMPAM

With so many international days of commemoration, it’s not surprising that there should be one for doctors too.

National Doctors Day is celebrated in many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, India, Iran, the United States and Vietnam, not forgetting our very own Malaysia.

Interestingly, unlike many other similar days, the date of National Doctors Day varies from country to country, and is even an official holiday in some countries like Brazil and Cuba.

This Day commemorates the contributions of doctors to the healthcare delivery system and the lives of their patients.

Malaysia’s National Doctors Day has been celebrated annually since 2014, when it was inaugurated by the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM).

The date Oct 10 was chosen for Malaysia as it represents precision; this is as all doctors are expected to give their best on all the occasions that they see patients – a professional duty they owe their patients.

Closing the gap

A nurse pricks a patient's finger to test for blood type. All the tests and medications at the camp were free for the patients.A nurse pricks a patient's finger to test for blood type. All the tests and medications at the camp were free for the patients.

The objective of this initiative is to help in addressing the disparity and inequal access to healthcare within the country, and to complement the national effort to ensure that no one is left behind, regardless of race, religion or social status, as Malaysia moves towards developed nation status.

That there are enormous gaps in the health status of Malaysians is a fact, with various reports noting that some segments have fallen out of the healthcare safety net, whe-ther in urban Klang Valley or rural Kampong Koh in Kelantan.

The fact is that poverty and disease do not have boundaries.

In recent years, FPMPAM has focused its voluntary efforts on communities that have limited access to healthcare, particularly the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malay-sia and the indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak.

For the very first time, the 2019 medical outreach camp in commemoration of National Doctors Day, was held in Sabah.

Organised by FPMPAM and one of its members, the Association of Private Practitioners’ Society Sabah (APPS), the camp was held in Kampung Tegudon, Kota Belud, which has a populaiton of about 1,000 inhabitants, mainly comprising Kadazan-Dusun.

This village is located about 70 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu. The main economic activity is agriculture, i.e. growing padi, rubber and oil palm.

The site of the medical camp was in a natural clearing by the Wariu river, which originates from Mount Kinabalu.

The site has recently been named the Tegudon Tourism Village, in an effort led by the community to promote their village to tourists as a way to improve their economic status.

Free healthcare services

One for the photo album: The doctors, nurses and other volunteers who participated in the medical outreach camp smile for the camera after the successful completion of the camp.

A team of more than 20 private medical and dental practitioners, both general practitioners and specialists from across the country, participated in the camp.

The village head; management of the tourism village; volunteers from the Sabah Cancer Volunteers Association (PSKS), Sabah Indian Association and the Hospital Kota Belud dental department; as well as trained medical and dental nurses, also participated in the camp.

In addition to general medical care, the villagers were provided specialist skin, eye and dental screening and treatment.

These included measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and random blood sugar; skin and eye examinations; scaling and extraction of teeth; oral cancer screening; and dental care counselling.

Medications were provided for most of the conditions diagnosed. In addition, all attendees were given vitamins and anti-helminthic medications, regardless of their health condition.

A speaker from PSKS also gave a health talk to attendees during lunchtime.

All services were provided free as the cost of the camp was borne by donations from well-wishers and corporate social responsibility grants from APPS and FPMPAM.

In total, medical screening was done on 217 attendees, while over 60 attendees had their teeth and mouth checked.

More than 80 attendees had their vision checked with 46 given free spectacles.

The most common conditions encountered by the volunteers were related to the respiratory, gastrointestinal, skin and musculoskeletal systems.

The most common condition was high blood pressure (hypertension), with many patients were not taking their medicines as they should.

The camp, which lasted from 10am to 3.30pm, was officiated by FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow and APPS founding president Dr James Jeremiah.

It was the biggest medical camp, in terms of medical resources, that FPMPAM has organised to date.

The feedback from the villagers and the health teams was exceptionally positive.

Said village head Kahira Balinu: “We are all so glad that this special medical event was held in our village.

“The nearest hospital is about 12 kilometres from here in Kota Belud, and for our neighbors in Kampung Sayap, it is another 27km further away.

“About 60% of the villagers are children and older people as the younger people have moved out to work in the town.

“We hope that with the development of the tourism village, things will be better for the people and the local economy.”

FPMPAM intends to reach out to as many remote communities as possible in its DRsforALL programme.

Dr Milton Lum is a past president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations and the Malaysian Medical Association. The views expressed do not represent that of organisations that the writer is associated with. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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