The Sarawak government is taking proactive steps towards increasing the number of doctors to serve the people in the state although health is a federal responsibility.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, in giving this assurance, said the Sarawak government through Yayasan Sarawak sponsored 40 students last year to study medicine at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in line with this objective.
“This sponsorship programme will continue until we will have produced 200 doctors. This means the state is spending RM4 million annually on the 40 students, or RM20 million for the duration of this programme.
“This has been made possible because Yayasan Sarawak can now receive more funds from the increase in timber premium charged on its timber concessions from 80 cents to RM50 per cubic metre,” he said in his text-of-speech read by Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian at the 46th installation dinner of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Sarawak branch.
The chief minister noted that Sarawak still needed more doctors and specialists to cater to the ever increasing demand and expectation of the people.
“The doctor-to-population ratio in the state was 1:2,000 in 2010 and improved to 1:980 in 2015, and we are currently trying to go for a ratio of 1:400 in the next five years,” he said.
He also said Sarawak needed a bigger allocation from the federal government to upgrade the facilities at hospitals and clinics. On a related note, Abang Johari said liberalisation of healthcare services in Malaysia would be the future trend.
“Private healthcare providers will be looking at developing countries to expand their services, so we should all strive to accept the challenge and improve ourselves to the extent that we are able to not only compete with these providers but extend our services overseas.
“Health tourism does not only benefit the healthcare sector but it will create spin-offs in other sectors. So I truly hope that Sarawak can be further developed to become the choice of people from other countries who are seeking quality and affordable healthcare services,” he said.
Newly-installed MMA Sarawak branch chairman Dr Morni Samat, who spoke earlier, highlighted that Sarawak is under represented in the Malaysian Medical Council with only one elected representative.
“We would like to request to have more representatives from Sarawak in the Malaysian Medical Council. And to achieve that, we would need an amendment to the Medical Act,” said Dr Morni.
He also informed that MMA Sarawak branch currently has 1,017 members including 700 with life membership.