LAWAS: It can take anywhere between five and twelve hours of driving to reach Ba’kelalan, a group of 13 villages, where Mercy Malaysia with the support of United Motor Works (UMW) set up a two-day mobile clinic.
The journey to the area from the nearest town, Lawas, involves driving in four-wheel drives on bumpy roads across four mountains or a much shorter flight which is only available twice a week.
Despite being only 125 kilometres away from Lawas town, the remoteness of the place, lack of accessible and affordable mode of transportation, and bad roads limits the villagers’ access to proper medical care.
University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) lecturer and plastic surgeon Dr Ehfa Bujang Safawi, who led the team of volunteers, said that there is a Health Clinic in Ba’kelalan but there are no doctors posted there.
“There are flying doctors who visit this place but we do not know how often they come here,” she said Saturday.
She added that through the mobile clinic, the doctors could prescribe medicine, which Medical Assistants at the Health Clinics are not allowed to, as they were not medical doctors.
“We give them prescription medicines and letter to enable them to get the medicines once it runs out.
“This ensure continuity in their healthcare,” Dr Ehfa said.
The mission involved three doctors, two dentists, two nurses and 20 Mercy volunteers, as well as several UMW staff.
The services provided included basic medical check-up, blood pressure checks, blood-sugar level checks, pap smear, dental care and eye check ups.
A total of 237 people turned up at the mobile clinic, with the doctors referring one patient to go for ultrasound to check for gallstone, one patient for spine x-ray and 14 patients for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
The most common medical issues that were treated were musculoskeletal pain, gastritis and upper respiratory tract infection.
As for the dental clinic, the doctors treated 54 patients.
The doctors performed 54 extractions, 23 fillings and 19 scaling throughout the programme.
Besides medical and dental care, Mercy volunteers also provided counselling to students to help them understand themselves better and to plan their future career path.
Unimas counselling lecturers Merikan Aren and Edris Aden were in charge of the programme, they can achieve providing the students with ideas of what with effort.
“Most of the children here do not have much exposure.
“We help give them the exposure needed to motivate them to achieve bigger things,” Merikan said.
He added that the main method used were art therapy and self-improvement methods.
“We only have limited time but we try to do what we can,” he said.
Ba’kelalan’s population is 764, and it only has primary schools.
It is understood that students who wish to study further will have to stay in boarding schools in nearest towns.
The Mercy mobile clinics in Sabah and Sarawak is funded by UMW, who spent RM430,000 for the whole of 2014.
The project is part of UMW’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts, where they have collaborated with Mercy since 2009 to conduct mobile clinics across Sabah and Sarawak.
The company, through its partnership with Mercy, aims to help bridge the divide in healthcare in marginalized and vulnerable communities.