Lau calls on PN to return healthcare autonomy to Sarawak

Senator Robert Lau

By Adrian Lim

KUCHING, April 21: Senator Robert Lau has called on the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government to return full autonomy over healthcare to Sarawak.

Lau in a statement today said the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) action of sending obsolete and non-working ventilators to Sibu was not acceptable.

He believed the MoH’s action reflects very badly on how the Federal Ministry treats Sarawak in the eyes of Sarawakians.

Lau asserted that the explanation by MoH on why obsolete machines were sent instead of new ones was “not credible”.

MoH must investigate, provide a clear explanation and clear the air as Sarawakians felt shortchanged by the way the federal government treats the people in the State, he said..

“Hospital facilities in Sarawak in general and the Rajang Basin in particular are lacking in facilities. Sibu hospitals are running low on equipment and have to resort to borrowing from private hospitals.

“The (Covid-19) pandemic has revealed the ugly truth of the serious lack of investment and the low priority given to the hospitals here as compared to Malaya.

“As an example, 10 ventilators in Sibu hospitals before the pandemic hit were already more than 10 years old and have been written off with zero value. This means they are obsolete and should not be repaired if broken and are to be replaced with new ones. Sadly, yearly requests for new replacements never come.

“Looking ahead, I believe the only way for a fairer relationship between Sarawak and the Federal government is for full autonomy over healthcare to be returned to Sarawak. This must include the fair distribution of the budget provided to Sarawak in the annual budget to cater for the whole healthcare operation in Sarawak. I have raised and proposed this during my maiden speech and again during last year debated on the Supply Bill (the federal Budget for 2021) in the Senate,” he said.

At the same time, Lau urged MoH to disclose the number of ventilators purchased by them since the start of the pandemic and where they were distributed in Sarawak.

On another note, Lau urged the Finance Ministry to provide tax relief for donors who donated equipment to public hospitals in Sarawak.

He observed that the people of Sibu people have been very generous in donating equipment and many other items to Sibu Hospital last year.

He noted even private companies donated two units of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing machines to Sibu Hospital.

Apart from that, Lau who is also Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Bawang Assan branch chairman said the Sarawak government has recently bought three new ventilators for Sibu Hospital and the private sector has donated one to Sibu Hospital and one to Kapit Hospital.

“Why must we continue to buy our own equipment when we also pay taxes to the federal government?

“Is this not an unfair penalty that Sarawakians have to pay?

“The Finance Ministry should allow for full tax relief to donors for the amount of money spent to purchase equipment that was donated to public hospitals in Sarawak,” he added. — DayakDaily