Take steps now to improve quality of healthcare


This wooden structure serves as the Long Sukang clinic in the Bakelalan highlands in northern Sarawak. — filepic

THE poor conditions of urban polyclinics and rural clinics in Sarawak is getting from bad to worse.

Frequent breakdowns in facilities like the electronic numbering system, overcrowding due to lack of space and shortage of treatment rooms are common, even at the Miri Polyclinic located right in the heart of the city.

I have also visited numerous rural clinics in the remote districts of Baram, Belaga and Bakelalan and saw that those made of wood are already rotting.

Those rural clinics have no treated water supply and depend on rainwater as well as river and mountain water.

Their electricity comes from diesel-powered generator sets that can only produce a small amount to light up lamps and other small electrical appliances.

The press has been highlighting the sad state of affairs in these health facilities in both rural and urban areas.

At the Miri Polyclinic earlier this month, patients had to queue for hours because the electronic numbering system at the counter and pharmacy were down.

The problem was further compounded by the lack of seating and the small waiting area which led to the queue extending up to the carpark.

I remember writing about these problems when I first started working as a reporter in northern Sarawak in 1996.

Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to have improved much in the ensuing years.

Several state leaders have said they had highlighted these issues to the Health Ministry in Putrajaya since it is a national matter.

I find it strange that the Sarawak Government has not stepped in to improve the situation using state money.

Resources like timber, palm oil and even petroleum royalty bring in billions every year.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has been talking about the state’s plans to build a multi-billion ringgit Light Rail Transit project in the Kuching-Serian region.

He had also spoken many times publicly about the digital and multimedia connectivity plan for Sarawak.

Abang Johari had also announced plans to extract hydrogen gas from water resources in Sarawak to generate hydrogen fuel for local use and export.

All these mega projects will cost billions of ringgit.

In a recent dialogue with businessmen in Miri, the Chief Minister said that Sarawak has the money to undertake these projects.

Of course, he will be asking for funding from Putrajaya too for these projects but I am sure he has done his homework and calcuated the amount needed beforehand.

Therefore, I am sure Abang Johari can spare just a little bit from these billions of ringgit in the Sarawak Treasury to upgrade our polyclinics and rural clinics that require immediate attention.

I hope the Chief Minister will improve conditions in these basic health facilities for the benefit of the rakyat now.

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