Sabah should appoint Health Minister, say experts
Published on: Saturday, October 17, 2020
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© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Medical experts said the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak is far worse in Sabah than in any other state and it looks like it is getting worse. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: Two medical experts say the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) State Government should appoint a dedicated minister to manage health-related matters in the State.

The heads of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said this was especially important given the high number of Covid-19 cases in Sabah, which was exacerbated by the recent polls.

Sabah DAP Chairman Datuk Frankie Poon, who was the former Sabah Health and People’s Well-being Minister, had previously called on the State Government to appoint a Health Minister to handle the Covid-19 crisis after the portfolio was removed from the new State Cabinet line-up.

In response, Sabah Progressive Party President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said a State Health Minister was unnecessary as it would only bring about a duplication of duties with the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Although health is a federal matter, Galen Centre CEO Azrul Khalib said there has to be an elected official accountable to Sabahans and capable of acting as their representative to the Federal Government.

“Sabah is currently experiencing a health crisis caused by Covid-19,” he told FMT. “They need someone who is aware and connected to the ground realities in Sabah.”

He also said despite the Health Ministry’s efforts at increasing the capacity of medical services in Sabah, such as sending over health personnel and setting up a field hospital with the help of the armed forces, more assistance and support would be needed as the pandemic continues.

“You can fit Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Perlis into Sabah, with room to spare. That is the size of Sabah with a population of 3.5 million, which is more than Sarawak.

“Sabah does not have the same level of health infrastructure as the Klang Valley but the severity of the pandemic spread is far worse than in any other state.”

MMA President Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy also agreed that appointing a dedicated Health Minister would be beneficial for the State.

However, he stressed that the full activation of the Sabah Covid-19 Command Centre was currently more critical.

“The State’s response must be strengthened, integrated and focused rather than running parallel with different ministries. The National Security Council (MKN) and federal Health Ministry are extremely critical in supporting the State’s efforts.

“The main actors for rapid and effective responses need to be the State Command Centre as they possess the local knowledge and accurate feedback from the ground.”

He added that the State Command Centre should take charge and co-ordinate aspects of the crisis across multiple sectors, such as the logistics of medical supplies and collaboration with private hospitals and NGOs.


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