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Let Sabahans be the first to receive Covid-19 vaccine

Press Statement by MP for Kota Kinabalu and DAP Sabah Secretary, Chan Foong Hin in Kuala Lumpur on 12 November 2020:

Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu Chan Foong Hin in his debate on the Budget 2021 today urged the federal government to let Sabahans be the first in the country to be given the Covid-19 vaccine once it is available.

“As Sabah is the epicenter of the 3rd wave of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, I would like to suggest that the people of Sabah be given priority to receive the Covid-19 vaccine which is expected to be available next year,” said Chan.

Chan, who is also the Secretary of DAP Sabah, said that Sabah is the state that has the highest number of Covid-19 active positive cases in Malaysia, which is over 20 thousand people.

“In actual fact, Sabah has long suffered from public health system problems even before the outbreak of the Covid 19. Clearly, there is a need for urgent allocation to address the health crisis in Sabah. This should be given due priority,” remarked Chan.

 
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Chan noted that more than 1/3 of Sabahans live more than 5 km away from any kind of healthcare facilities, and that the lack of specialists and medical equipment had forced patients requiring advanced treatment to be referred to government hospitals further away from home.

“Government hospitals around Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan had to close specialist clinics to focus fully on Covid-19 patients, and that it has been reported for some time that up to 72% of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Sabah is occupied. This may cause some patients with other chronic diseases to not be able to receive appropriate treatment timely,” said Chan.

Chan stated that even though there are 24 government hospitals and 300 government health clinics throughout Sabah, this is still insufficient and still cannot fully meet the needs of the people of the state.

“The official ratio of doctors to the population in Sabah is 1: 856 (one doctor for every 856 population) compared to 1: 454 at the national level, posing a challenge to hospitals and the front line when new cases of Covid-19 increase sharply every day,” said Chan.

 
 

Chan also raised in his speech that more and more healthcare workers and frontliners in Sabah had been infected by Covid-19 in the course of their work, and that as a result, other healthy frontliners had to work overtime and continuously to meet the needs of the people, especially hospitals around Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Health (MOH) who have worked hard to improve the state’s ability to deal with the dire situation in Sabah. Apart from increasing the capacity of beds for patients, MOH has also mobilised hundreds of medical and public health personnel from all over Malaysia to Sabah to fight the pandemic,” said Chan.

Chan said that after the pandemic is controlled, the government should extend the health agenda so that the people of Sabah can enjoy better quality health facilities.

“The question is, what are the plans and actions of the federal government to bring the gap (public health system) in Sabah closer to the national level in the long run?” Chan questioned.

Chan then noted that in the 2021 Budget tabled last Friday, no data on the breakdown of development expenditure for healthcare by states were provided, and that he would like the Minister of Health to provide such information, especially for Sabah which is in dire need of allocation.

Chan further urged the federal government to provide new health facilities, upgrade existing health facilities throughout Sabah and introduce a scheme specifically for Sabah so that those in need have optimal access to health services.

 
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“Basic healthcare coverage in rural areas also needs to be improved, by providing mobile clinics and the reintroduction of air doctor services which was terminated by the Sabah Health Department in 2016,” said Chan.

Chan finally urged the federal government to abolish the allocation for JASA under the Multimedia and Communication Ministry (KKMM) which is estimated at RM85 million and transfer the same to the MOH, specifically for public health development in Sabah.

“Isn’t Sabah, which is an equivalent partner in the establishment of Malaysia, more deserving of the financial resources, compared to the propaganda unit for the ruling party? I will support the 2021 Budget if there is this amendment!” said Chan.

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