Only 1 doctor for every 662 patients in Sarawak – Dr Yii

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, Aug 5: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii disclosed that the official doctor-patient workforce ratio in Sarawak is 1 to 662.

The “Health Workforce Requirements for Universal Health Coverage And Sustainable Development Goals” report by World Health Organisation (WHO), however, recommended a ratio of one healthcare worker, comprising a doctor and trained nurse to every 225 people.

Dr Yii thus argued that the recent statement by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba that Malaysia has reached the doctor-patient workforce ratio recommended by WHO for universal health coverage may not paint a full picture of the reality on the ground especially the needs of doctors in the rural areas, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli settlement in Peninsular Malaysia.

“To use merely ratio of doctors to patients to measure Universal Healthcare Coverage in our country is not painting the full picture as even with high ratio, it can also mean that there is a congestion of healthcare workers in the bigger cities especially in the Klang Valley, but (the) lack of (it)  in the rural areas.

“The ratio basically shows the average of whole country, but if we were to look at it at a micro level, especially state by state, you’ll find a different picture. For example, the official ratio of doctors to the population in Sabah is about 1:856 and Sarawak 1:662,” said Dr Yii in a statement today.

He said to get a closer picture, 45.6 per cent or 98 out of 215 rural clinics in Sarawak do not even have a doctor, and is only manned by medical assistants (MAs) and nurses.

“If we analyse the different departments, (as well) we will see another picture where there are departments still lacking in manpower.

“An Auditor General report in 2018 clearly stated that the Emergency and Trauma Department (ETD) are understaffed, underfunded and overworked.

“These will lead to burnouts, which again affect the quality of care given to the patient,” said Dr Yii.

He thus held that to fully achieve the principle of Universal Health Coverage, there are other aspects that need to be taken into consideration including comprehensive population coverage, adequate health care services and also affordable access to healthcare.

In order to achieve all those, he believed that what is more important is actually distribution of doctors and healthcare workers especially in places of needs particularly in the rural areas.

“That is why I hope the Ministry will not use this ratio as an excuse not to absorb more healthcare workers into public service as we still are in urgent need of greater investment to public healthcare including our human resource,” said Dr Yii.