Photo : Datuk Christina Liew speaking in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Where is the promised new mammogram screening machine for Tawau Hospital? Why is it so difficult for the Federal Government to meet the needs of the people in Sabah? What happened to the financial allocation for this mammogram machine?
Member of Parliament for Tawau Datuk Christina Liew posed these questions to the Ministry of Health (KKM) when debating the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.
She said the KKM must treat this outstanding matter with urgency if it genuinely cares for the people’s welfare.
“This long-overdue medical equipment is a necessity, and not a luxury, given that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Any undue delay is unwarranted and causes great inconvenience and financial burden on those who require mammogram screening service.
“Presently, women in Tawau get their mammogram done at the private medical centre in town or go to Kota Kinabalu which is inconvenient and costly. Poor women who are affected cannot afford to seek medical help at private healthcare facilities,” Liew told the august House.
According to her, the Health Ministry had approved the procurement and funding for this badly-needed facility in 2017 during the Barisan Nasional (BN) Administration but its installation has yet to take place.
Liew, who is a former Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said : “After Pakatan Harapan (PH) came to power in 2018, I raised the issue concerned in Parliament that year. Subsequently, procurement of the machine was approved with funding by the PH Government in 2019.
However, she pointed out, following the sudden change of government in February 2020, nothing was done to get the machine installed at the Tawau Hospital.
“So, in April this year, I urged the Health Ministry to expedite the installation of the equipment but unfortunately, until today, there is no sign of this long-awaited facility at the Tawau Hospital.
“Do not allow bureaucracy to cause hardship to the rakyat. Do not allow the Covid-19 pandemic to become an excuse for not installing the machine.
“Now that the Special Adviser to the newly-appointed Health Minister is from Sabah (in the person of Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin), we hope to get good news soon,” Liew, who is also Api Api Assemblywoman, said.
She asserted that she was raising this issue in the hope that this can be resolved once and for all under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) which aims to transform the nation into a ‘Prosperous, Inclusive, Sustainable – Keluarga Malaysia’ (or Malaysian Family) during the five-year period from 2021 to 2025.
This issue, she said, is in line with the third main focus of the 12MP, that is, to improve the well-being of the Malaysian Family with a better quality of life.
Liew noted that in tabling the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) on September 27, the Prime Minister had said that the Government remains committed to strengthening the health care system to ensure that we have a healthy and productive rakyat.
The Prime Minister has also assured that the Government will develop new health facilities and augment the availability of medical fittings and equipment, she added.
“The people of Tawau place high hopes on the Government to fulfil their needs, in line with the spirit of ‘Malaysian Family’ so that no one will be left behind, in the words of the Prime Minister himself,” Liew said.
According to her, the health portfolio was under State control following Sabah’s independence through the formation of Malaysia in 1963. “On September 16, 1963, the North Borneo Health Department became the State Health Department. However, the health portfolio was surrendered to the Federal Government on January 1st, 1971. The rest is history.”
The Tawau MP said it is a disappointment that after 58 years of achieving Sabah’s Independence, we still have medical frontliners crying out for help for want of manpower and facilities, especially during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is exactly what is happening in some of the major hospitals in Sabah – that is, lack of manpower resulting in overstretched medical personnel, shortage of ICU beds, oxygen supply and ventilators as well as inadequate ambulance services.
“The State health authorities should not be in denial mode if they face problems; instead, they should seek help from the Health Ministry to rectify the shortcomings,” she said.
Liew contended that it cannot be denied that the Government’s handling of the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the healthcare system and medical infrastructure in Malaysia in general, and Sabah in particular.
The previous administration, she said, might have neglected Sabah to a certain extent in managing the pandemic.
“Due to the unequal supply of COVID-19 vaccines to Sabah, we are relegated to the bottom rung, unfortunately, (while) other parts of the country like Klang Valley and Labuan have already achieved up to 90 percent vaccination rate.
“Currently, Sabah is ranked last among all the states as the lowest vaccinated state in the country,” she said, adding as of October 2, 2021, Sabah has reached 65.8 percent for its fully vaccinated adult population.
Liew further said that Sabah deserves respect and equal treatment and an equitable share of economic assistance and resources, as an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia. “The Federal Government must not just think of ways to increase its tax collection but must also remember Sabah’s needs.”
Saying it was reported that the supply of vaccines to Sabah is sufficient for the immunisation programme, Liew wanted to know why Tawau has still not achieved a fully vaccinated rate of 60 percent for its adult population.
“Is the Government carrying out the outreach vaccination programme in the rural areas as announced recently?” she asked.
As of September 26 this year, Sabah had received over five million doses of vaccine since the start of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (Pick) while another 900,000 doses were received by the end of that month.
Given the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s belief that the Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is capable of proving its achievement in the first 100 days, Liew expressed the hope that the proposed field hospital for Tawau will be completed during this period.
She said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had given his assurance that the field hospital will be completed as soon as possible, after visiting the proposed site at the old Tawau Airport on September 6 (apart from promising to provide the Tawau District Hospital with 10 ICU beds).
“In fact, the Health Ministry had in May this year proposed to the Federal Government to build a field hospital in Tawau to accommodate non-Covid-19 patients,” she added.