Enlist private doctors to combat diabetes? Why not?

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  • Thursday, 19 Jul 2018

MIRI: The past week has seen many high-profile and important events happening in Sarawak, notably in Kuching and Miri.

The State Assembly sitting is one such event in the state capital where interesting issues were brought up for discussion, especially regarding the oil and gas rights of Sarawak.

There were also controversial issues that surfaced, notably the passing of the Sarawak Land Code Amendment Bill that saw protests from Pakatan Harapan assemblymen and subsequent public protests en masse in Miri and Bintulu by native rights groups.

In the midst of all these events, about 200 people from the medical and health industries from throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan gathered in Miri City for the first Borneo Diabetes Conference.

I was at the diabetes conference and saw the long list of topics for talks, working papers and dialogues that were scheduled to take place during the event from July 12 to 15.

The topics looked highly academic in nature and I thought the event would be tedious and run-of-the-mill.

After all, diabetes is a hot topic and the public is knowledgeable on the issue.

I thought there would not be anything that would be of ‘new’ news value — until the keynote address by Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar.

Dr Azman spoke for almost 30 minutes and at first, it was pretty routine — plenty of facts and figures on diabetes that most of us would already know.

Then, seemingly off-the-cuff, he made a comment that to me, was the most useful idea I’ve heard over the past week.

He called on private doctors to help carry out free public screening to detect cases of diabetes among the community.

There is a high prevalence of diabetes cases in Miri and the government health authorities need help from private doctors to deal with this growing health issue, Dr Azman said.

He said diabetes has become the top disease not just in Miri but nationwide.

“The government is very concerned that diabetes cases have risen from 11.5% of total health diseases in 2016 to 17.5% in 2017.

“This year, we will surely see another hike in diabetes cases.

“At least 3.5million Malaysians aged 18 and above are suffering from diabetes today. That figure is likely to go up next year based on prevailing trends.

“We in the government health sector are doing all we can to treat those with the disease and also prevent new cases through education and early detection.

“However, the task is too big for the government to handle alone,” he said, adding that private doctors needed to come in and help with early detection and not just treatment.

“In Miri, for example, there are about 50 general doctors in private clinics.

“They should help carry out free public diabetes screening to detect early cases,” he said.

Dr Azwan said early detection can help prevent full-blown diabetes if such cases were treated early.

Education too can prevent diabetes if it can instil behavioral and diet changes, he added.

That proposal by Dr Azman — that private doctors in Miri should play their part in giving free diabetes screening — is very relevant.

At present, only government polyclinics give such screening for free while private clinics impose charges.

Since private doctors are aplenty, they must do more corporate social responsibility for the rakyat.

Dr Azman’s proposal should be turned into reality with the Health Ministry liaising with private doctors not just in Miri but the rest of Sarawak to give free diabetes and other health screenings to the poor, handicapped, blind and rural folks.

It is good that Dr Azman brought up this useful idea and now, he should take steps to turn it into reality.

The public appreciates such useful ideas from those in positions of authority, whether at the state or federal level.

I hope Sarawakian politicians from both sides of the political divide can learn to do the same.

Politicians must come up with good ideas that are beneficial to the rakyat and help to realise these good ideas to bring real benefits to the rakyat.

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