Wednesday, December 6

It’s about time we sing praises of our medical services


I HAVE noticed one simple fact that pervades our society at large and our local community in particular. The majority of those who benefit from our public medical services – consultation, medication, and specialist treatment – tend to complain a lot, despite the fact that from my personal experience we do have one of the best free medical services in the world.

I read, hear, and have witnessed all sorts of negativity concerning the Sarawak General Hospital, specialist clinic, the many polyclinics, and other facilities that operate throughout Sarawak. The brickbats and grumbles usually involve the physical personal inconveniences like lack of parking for vehicles, the very long queues at the counters, and frequent short supplies of medicines.

I have seldom heard any praise or bouquet, or anyone writing to the press to say something positive or encouraging of what they have experienced. (I must admit here that in the past 10 years, I have written twice to the press and online media in praise of the excellence shown by the doctors and staff of the Sarawak health services – one of which pertained to the Sarawak General Hospital emergency services and the other more recently of the Sarawak Heart Centre. Kudos and hats off to Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian and chief surgeon Mr Jong Yuan Hsun.)

Sad to say, and tragically, my two letters were probably the only two missives to have ever been widely published; although truth be told I have seen many thank you cards and notes from past patients posted on the notice boards at the hospitals and polyclinics. I suppose that one can attribute this to the very Asian attitude and upbringing of being shy about outwardly showing any form of gratitude – as ‘thank you’ can be as difficult to verbalise as the even more intimate ‘I love you’.

Our universally free medical services are positively one of the world’s best. Sure, you can say that the queues to see your GP are extremely long and that you have the hassle of finding parking for your car, and that the pharmacy only dispenses you one month’s worth of medications.

But don’t forget that, firstly, everything is free (except for some very specialist treatment and other small token charges here and there). The doctors and specialists attending to you are all very well trained and many are top notch in their specialist fields. The general staff of nurses, attendants, and other administrative personnel are all mostly polite, helpful, and patient. Most speak at least two languages and a couple of local dialects – but you can be sure of being given a translator if you cannot make yourself understood.

Most of the facilities available right now are comfortable, spacious, and easily reachable – many are even air-conditioned and well-equipped with nice waiting areas with television and/or piped in music. There are proper PA systems and there are efficient queuing methods.

In my humble opinion, and having experienced the private medical facilities here in Kuching as well as in Singapore (Mount Elizabeth Specialist Centre), I daresay that the facilities at our Sarawak General Hospital and the Sarawak Heart Centre are definitely comparable and of a similar standard, if not higher. The specialists, doctors, nursing staff, as well as support staff are as good if not better trained as well.

The difference is of course you need to have a very healthy bank account to be able to go private be it here or anywhere else.

Very few patients actually admit to this but I would like to say it out here that the skills of the specialist doctors in Sarawak are equally good as those anywhere else in the world. In the past, many of our public medical facilities did not possess most of the high end, high-tech, and up-to-date equipment to deal with many of the ailments and diseases, which require diagnostics from such hardware, but a close specialist doctor relative of mine, who practises in the United Kingdom has assured me that the equipment he has seen at our medical facilities actually rival those that he has seen anywhere else in the world. It is true that for a brief period of time in the past we had gone through a staff shortage of skilled personnel, who could operate and tend to this hardware, but that’s now history.

As most of you are aware, right now it’s a virtual nightmare to visit the Sarawak General Hospital and to navigate oneself through the many road diversions amidst the renovations and upgrading that’s been going on since the beginning of this year. This involves the construction of new parking lots, a new hotel, a new commercial complex, and the upgrading and renovation of the current SGH block. It’s scheduled to be completed in three years’ time and has been awarded to a very reputable and well-established consortium. They have also brought in a very experienced senior project manager, whose credentials and CV include some of the most famous projects in Malaysia, Australia, and the Middle East. David Topping – I have faith in you and I believe that we will be able to enjoy all these new facilities within the timeframe as promised.

Hopefully by the year 2021, we the lucky citizens of Kuching will be able to experience a state-of-the-art Sarawak General Hospital where the old days of the truly awful car parking system (non-existent) are gone, the long lines of queues for the registration and consultation counters have lessened, and the dispensation of medications have regularised to a more reasonable three-month ration.

Added to erasing all these long-suffering conditions will also be a hotel to house outstation patients’ families and a shopping centre for them to buy their necessities.

I do sincerely hope that when all these do actually materialise, someone reading this would write a grateful thank you letter to the authorities concerned. That would make my day.

Comments can reach the writer via [email protected].