KOTA KINABALU: The Health Ministry is aware of the hardships faced by Sabahans who have to travel far and wide just to obtain treatment for their health conditions, says Khairy Jamaluddin.
That is why, the Health Minister said, the ministry had come up with a plan to improve healthcare services in the state in the next eight to 10 years under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) and 13MP.
Khairy said the terrain in the peninsula was far different to that in Sabah and Sarawak where people sometimes had to travel over hills and mountains.
He said some areas in Sabah were very isolated and located hundreds of kilometres from the nearest hospital and people had to travel for hours to receive healthcare.
He added that although the government healthcare services were cheap for locals, the travelling expenses which sometimes involved flying to Kuala Lumpur, were a burden to Sabahans.
"That’s why when you’re at the hospital, you can see Sabahans who come far away from Sandakan, Semporna and Kinabatangan (among others)," he said, when speaking during the launch of the Agenda Nasional Malaysia Sihat-Sabah Maju Jaya (ANMS-SMJ) here on Saturday (Sept 10).
"And when they are at the hospital, they have to wait for hours just to see the specialists," he added, noting that the ministry hoped to cut down the hassle for the people once the plan was implemented.
Khairy had on Friday (Sept 9) announced several improvements for the health facilities and services in Sabah including the elevation of the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Sandakan and Tawau Hospital to a state-level facility to be on par with the Queen Elizabeth I in the state capital.
Besides training more specialists, especially from Sabah, he said, the ministry also planned to send in over a hundred more specialists and more than a thousand nurses to Sabah by this year's end.
Other than that, he said the Keningau and Lahad Datu district hospitals would be upgraded into major specialists hospitals while the Kota Marudu, Beaufort and Tuaran hospitals would be upgraded to minor specialists hospitals.
During a doorstep interview later, Khairy said the Health Ministry has identified 326 clinics, including 287 that were considered dilapidated, that needed immediate improvements in Sabah.
"These 287 clinics were built using wood and have been assessed to be unsafe for us now.
"I have applied to the Finance Ministry, and hopefully, the funds will be approved because these facilities need immediate attention," he said.
Besides that, he said, the ministry was also working to enable 27 operating theatres in Sabah hospitals to be utilised as soon as possible.
Khairy said these operating theatres had been constructed some time ago but had yet to be operational due to lack of equipment and specialists.
"We will expedite efforts to open these theatres to lessen the waiting time as this long waiting period, which could take months, could mean between life and death," he said.