THE Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy welcomes the appointment of Dr Zaliha Mustafa as Malaysia’s 23rd Health Minister, and congratulates her for being the first woman to be appointed to hold that responsibility.
The Galen Centre would like to make the following two recommendations for Dr Zaliha to consider implementing in her first 100 days in office.
> Table and initiate a vote on the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill in the Dewan Rakyat: This Bill was worked on by a bipartisan parliamentary special select committee to accommodate the views of all parties – and a compromise was reached by all.
The Bill is a great showpiece of different parties with varying positions and views working sincerely to shape a better and healthier future for Malaysians. It deserves to be tabled and it should have support from all parties in Parliament.
> Publish the Health Reform White Paper: This document captures the combination of hundreds of years of expertise from current and retired healthcare professionals, experts, communities, patients and stakeholders looking to transform and future-proof the landscape of Malaysian healthcare.
The White Paper was worked on by hundreds of people and contains recommendations which should see the light of day and be considered by the government and the public.
We are also of the opinion that Dr Zaliha needs to consider four critical issues: sustainable healthcare financing, an effective response to the non-communicable diseases crisis, closing the gap on mental healthcare and addressing the lack of preparedness to provide care for an ageing population.
We hope the minister will take a deliberate consultative and inclusive approach to dealing with healthcare problems in a way that places people and patients at the centre and as beneficiaries of policies, as opposed to just being the target of them.
The Health Ministry needs to work in collaboration and consultatively with the private sector, patient groups, affected communities and civil society organisations.
The current healthcare system needs urgent attention to improving existing infrastructure and manpower, and to increase coverage and quality of service delivery, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.
Investments in healthcare professionals, medical innovations, digital health, infectious disease prevention and control expertise, and in rural healthcare services, must be continued and maintained.
The government has an opportunity to implement major reforms and introduce significant changes to our healthcare system. Tough decisions will need to be made to ensure that the quality and coverage of healthcare accessible to Malaysians are befitting an upper middle income country. No one should be left behind.
We wish Dr Zaliha the best of luck and we look forward to working with her team.
AZRUL MOHD KHALIB
Founder & chief executive officer
The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy is an independent public policy research and advocacy organisation focused on health and social issues.