Saturday, January 02, 2010

Acess to free healthcare for all in Malaysia without the threat of being arrested will improve general public health situation

Unless healthcare is made accessible and available to all persons in Malaysia, it is a problem.

Now, for documented migrants and foreigners, government medical facilities charge extra...I believe a Malaysian may be required to pay RM1 (or RM5 maximum), but a foreign national is required to pay an initial registration fee of RM50-00.

There seems to be no access to non-Malaysians without the necessary documentation. I estimate about 5 million undocumented migrants in Malaysia.

The 'higher rates' and the lack of access to migrants may result in many not coming to get required medical/healthcare and hence this increases the risk of all in Malaysia, especially when it comes to transmittable illness.

Hence, I believe Malaysia should immediately move towards universal healthcare for all. In fact, the fact that one does not the required documentation should not be a bar to getting and receiving healthcare. [Maybe, there should also be an assurance that hospital authorities will not report to the police or immigration authorities] Our primary objective must be healthcare - public healthcare.

Who brings in these diseases to Malaysia? It is so wrong to blame migrants, asylums and refugees for this, as we all know that these diseases can so easily enter this country today considering the number of people going in and out of this country everyday - tourists, Malaysians traveling back from overseas,... Hence, placing blame on just migrants, asylum seekers and refugees is an indicator of our prejudice, but we do not expect such prejudice statements to be made by the government, especially those who claim to have a medical education and/or background.

Migrant workers, many of whom are here illegally, are the source of the spread of malaria in six states.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there was a spike of malaria cases in Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Pahang, Selangor and Johor.

"In some of these states, the increase in cases is due to migrant workers, many of whom are illegal, coming from countries where malaria is still endemic," he told the New Straits Times.

In addition, he said, these workers were mobile and posed a challenge to the ministry's efforts to ensure they completed their treatment.

"Some workers who are under treatment move in a state or to other states and it is difficult to trace them," he said, adding that the opening of new areas for plantation or development projects attracted migrants who were not screened and posed a health threat.

In Sabah and Sarawak, Liow said there was also a lack of access to government health facilities, especially among rural communities.

Although there was a dramatic decline in the number of malaria cases in the country, the disease remained a public health burden in rural areas in the six states.

"We have seen a decline in cases over the past 40 years. In 1960s, there were more than 200,000 patients a year but this year, as of October, there were 5,778 cases," said Liow, adding that this was a great achievement and the result of effective control programmes.

In 2000, there were 12,708 cases and last year, 7,390 cases were reported, which represented a 42 per cent reduction.

"As a country, we are moving in the right direction towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, which is to halt and reverse the incidences of malaria by 2015."

He said the ministry was confident of achieving that target despite the presence of illegal migrant workers.

Malaysia, he said, had achieved major success in virtually eliminating malaria from urban and other densely populated areas. -New Straits Times, 28/12/2009, Migrants bringing in malaria

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