By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 10: Hospital Sentosa, the only mental institution in Sarawak and now at 60 years old, is desperately in need of upgrading and improving its ageing infrastructure and facilities.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said despite a 7.8 per cent increase in the 2019 federal budget allocation for healthcare to nearly RM29 billion, there was no specific allocation for mental health, which is a significant and growing issue in Malaysia, including Sarawak.
“But I have spoken and conveyed my concerns to Dr Lee Boon Chye (Deputy Health Minister) about the need to upgrade Hospital Sentosa. He has promised to look into this,” he said at the hospital’s 60th anniversary celebration here today.
Dr Yii represented Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen to officiate at the event.
Hospital Sentosa, the oldest hospital in Sarawak, has 369 staff, including clinical and non-clinical staff. It has 338 beds with eight wards providing mental specialist services for outpatient and inpatient, training and research in psychiatry.
It is the second and tertiary referral centre for the whole state, and it provides comprehensive, effective and quality psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation services.
“Dr Lee also gave an assurance to look into the need to increase the number of psychologists to serve our population and the country, as a whole,” he added.
In Sarawak, Dr Yii told those present that there were only 19 psychiatrists in major public hospitals, including Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), Hospital Sentosa, Serian, Sri Aman, Sibu, Bintulu, Kapit, Miri and Limbang, but only two clinical psychologists to serve the Sarawak population of 2.6 million.
“There is a need to increase the number of clinical psychologists. At the same time, medical officers should be given adequate training to manage mental health issues in the primary healthcare setting,” he emphasized.
“We have inadequate resource allocation for mental health. The government and Health Ministry should provide funds, especially for treating mental health.”
Dr Yii stressed that as the country and state strived to become a developed and high-income nation, due focus must also be given to sound mental health development because “there is no health without mental health”.
It is estimated that 35.8 per cent of Sarawakians have a mental health issue, with Sabah topping the list at 41.9 per cent followed by Kuala Lumpur 39.8 per cent and Kelantan 39.1 per cent.
“The 2015 Ministry of Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that 4.2 million Malaysians aged 18 years and above were struggling with mental health issues, which means that one in three persons in Malaysia has a mental health issue.
“These figures are highly alarming, indicating that from 1996 to 2015, the prevalence of mental health issues has risen almost three folds, from 10.7 per cent to 29.2 per cent,” he said.
Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that depression is currently the fourth largest contributor to global disability, and by 2020, it is estimated that depression will rank second after heart diseases.
“The government and community at all levels need to address mental illnesses and develop preventive strategies and effective programmes to manage mental wellbeing,” urged Dr Yii.
Mental health, he stressed, should no longer be ignored but be given adequate attention and allocation as the problem could cost the country and employers billions of ringgit if not properly addressed.
“Collaboration is key to maximise impact. We hope to see more multisector collaborations between government ministries and agencies as well as local communities to promote good mental health among our people,” he added.
Acting director of Hospital Sentosa and Mental Health Foundation Sarawak Chapter chairman Dr Ismail Drahman as well as organising chairwoman and Psychiatrist Consultant Dr Rosliwati Md Yusoff were among those present. — DayakDaily