Paramedic career beckons for Semai youths

‘Work and learn’: (From right) Dr Chow with Rosila and Samsuri at his clinic in Kuala Lumpur.

MEDICAL care is often inaccessible in remote areas. To receive treatment, villagers have to travel for hours and experience discomfort as their vehicles traverse over rough terrain.

Such is the case for the Semai indigenous people living in Pos Lenjang and Pos Titom, in Kuala Lipis, Pahang.

However, since 2018, their plight has been eased with the setting up of Malaysia’s first Orang Asli (OA) medical post at the strategically located Kampung Dayok.

Founded by consultant dermatologist Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng, the Drs for All initiative has been serving 4,000 residents in scattered villages only accessible by four-wheel drives and whose access to the nearest hospital is a three-hour drive away.

In addition, it offers vocational training to OA volunteers, known as Medik OAs, who go on to become qualified paramedics.

“Through this programme, we aim to train them with basic skills to identify and respond to emergency situations, as well as to ‘pack and carry’ critically ill patients to the nearest point of care.

“They are also trained to use simple electronic monitoring devices to transmit basic clinical data needed for teleconsultation with the medical team on call,” Dr Chow told StarEdu.

According to the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Malaysia (FPMPAM) president, a total of 33 Medik OAs aged between 19 and 40 have undergone two phases of training.

“The first phase includes attending a four-weekend training module with intensive first aid courses such as performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and handling wounds, fractures or snake bites, and attachment to clinics and ambulance services with St. John Ambulance of Malaysia (SJAM),” he said.

He added that Medik OAs have passed the basic first aid level certification with SJAM.

The next phase involves taking part in a “Work and Learn” programme at private clinics and nursing homes in Kuala Lumpur.

“Medik OAs learn basic clinical skills, do wound dressings, toilet, and suture of open wounds, help prepare medications for dispensing, register patients, as well as perform blood pressure, pulse rate and temperature checks.

“They are also trained as caregivers for the elderly and patients in nursing homes,” he shared, adding that their services in this sector are well-respected and in demand.

Prior to the enforcement of restrictions in April this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Medik OAs undergoing the “Work and Learn” programme returned to their villages every month.

Together with a team of clinical specialists, they carried out outreach missions, where free consultations, medications and health education were offered to the OA community.

“The Medik OAs serve as the vanguard for the community in developing self-reliance and a sustainable community-based first responder service.

“The programme also provides them with opportunities in organisation skills, microfinance management and leadership training,” said Dr Chow.

As for chances of career progression, he said FPMPAM has secured five scholarships yearly for selected Medik OAs to undertake a full-time diploma in clinical nursing course at AIMST University.

Dr Chow also said that new Medik OAs are recruited from the community via a buddy system to ensure the continuity of the project.

“Ten Medik OAs have now completed the ‘Training the Trainers’ programme, in which regular teaching events are conducted via Zoom.

“The Drs for All programme also offers collaboration with medical schools to develop hands-on training in frontier and research in community medicine for their students,” he added.

Impacting lives

Medik OAs Rosila Karan, 24, and Samsuri Daud, 19, who are currently undergoing the “Work and Learn” programme at Dr Chow’s clinic in Kuala Lumpur, are grateful to be a part of the initiative.

Rosila said she has had the opportunity to observe the doctor’s consultation with patients, treatment of wounds, and execution of procedures such as laser surgery and minor operations.

“These exposures have increased my confidence in communicating with people of multicultural origins and prepared me to deal with emergency situations that require urgent medical attention back home,” she said, adding that she has provided first aid treatment to patients with dog bites, knife injury and from motor vehicle accidents.

Agreeing, Samsuri said the programme has challenged him to step out of his comfort zone in preparation for a brighter future.

“Before this, many of my peers usually remained in the village after our Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations. The introduction of this project has provided a platform for our community to practise medical skills and even obtain a job in the city.

“I also have a great sense of satisfaction after contributing to the medical treatment of patients and watching them recover later,” he said, citing his experience of treating a friend who had dislocated a shoulder after falling from a palm tree as an example.

They also expressed gratitude for the impact Drs for All has effected on the community.

Rosila shared an incident where it took her six hours to bring her younger sister with breathing difficulties to the emergency department at Hospital Kuala Lipis from the medical post, as she had to stop by Klinik Desa Pos Lenjang and Klinik Kesihatan Pos Betau en route.

As Drs for All now provides telemedicine support for the medical post in the event of any emergencies, the process has been cut short.

“With this support, the time taken to send emergency patients to the hospital can be reduced with a direct referral letter,” Rosila said.

Both Rosila and Samsuri intend to learn as much as possible while participating in this programme.

“With all the knowledge and experience gained, we will return to our village and serve those in need of medical attention in our community,” they said.

Wong, 21, a medical student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

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paramedic , career , Semai , youths , Orang Asli


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