“Shocked” Baru promises to address Lawas’ healthcare woes

Baru Bian

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KUCHING, August 3: Works Minister Baru Bian was shocked to see the condition of Long Sukang Clinic in Lawas during his first official visit there as a minister last weekend.

In a statement today, Baru said the clinic was in a very dilapidated state; the beams and flooring had been eaten by termites.

“There are signs warning people not to step on certain portions of the floor, in case the floor boards give way. The building was built by the people of Long Sukang many years ago on land that belongs to the villagers. I was told that land had been acquired for the clinic, but there has been no allocation,” he said.

Baru noted that the Ministry of Rural Affairs had built a concrete structure next to the clinic. It is used as a staff quarters and to store medical equipment.

However, he added, the dilapidated building was still being used as a clinic, which serves around 1,000 people from Long Sukang and surrounding villages.

“It is critical that a new clinic be built as soon as possible. The people of Lawas have been deprived of proper and adequate healthcare for many years.

“I am determined to remedy the situation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Rural Development Ministry,” Baru promised.

His visit to Lawas was to attend a dialogue session to hear issues affecting Lawas and his state constituency of Ba’kelalan. But the first order of business was to look into the `sick’ Lawas Hospital project. At the project site, Baru was briefed by officials from the Public Works Department (Lawas and Limbang) and state Health director Dr Jamilah Hashim.

Later, Baru was briefed by Lawas District Office staff on development in Lawas. This was followed by a session with the police on social issues, including drug abuse and illegal gambling.

“One unplanned event was an invitation by the Chung Hua School’s board for me to visit the school. They requested for an area to be tar-sealed for holding sports activities and other events.

“Out of these dialogues and visits, the most critical project that needs to be carried out immediately is the Lawas Hospital, of which the First Phase and Phase 2A have been completed,” he said.

Baru said what was left was Phase 2B, which involved building the hospital structure. He added that besides Lawas Hospital, the Lawas Clinic and Long Sukang Clinic also needed urgent attention.

Baru said work on the proposed Lawas Hospital project started in 2011, and it was expected to be completed in 2016.

“The delay in building the hospital has caused much hardship to the people and even loss of loved ones. Patients in critical conditions have to be sent to Kota Kinabalu or to Miri for treatment. Some of the people in Lawas do not have passports and cannot be sent by road to Miri as that involves crossing Brunei.

“Some patients who were sent to Kota Kinabalu reported being questioned why they had to be sent to another state for treatment. In extreme emergencies, the families can get a helicopter service, but the cost of that is RM7,000 per hour. Needless to say, some patients who could have been saved died as a result of this problem of lack of healthcare.

“To me, this is unacceptable in this day and age,” he said

Currently, Baru said the Lawas hospital staff and patients had to put up with limited space in rented shoplots and one old building, which is being used as a ward.

He added that the Lawas Clinic is also operating in a rented shoplot while construction of the new premises is being carried out on a piece of land that was originally acquired for the Lawas Hospital. — DayakDaily