Covid-19: Health Ministry staff went above and beyond their duties, risking their lives, says KJ

PUTRAJAYA: Upgrading health facilities nationwide and human resources are among aspects Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin would address in his second year helming the ministry.

Khairy said when he was appointed to the position in August last year, the country was in the acute wave of the Covid-19 Delta variant phase.

"The ministry's focus for the past two years has been on managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Now, as the situation is better and under control, we can focus on addressing other issues that are also equally important to ensure quality service of health delivery," he said during an interview with the media on his achievements after a year in the office yesterday.

Also present was Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The Rembau MP said he had been visiting the ministry's health facilities nationwide for the past few weeks and found many to be in poor condition.

"At present, we have 2,732 clinics that are in neglected and run-down states, but still in operation to cater to the healthcare needs of the people.

"It saddens me to witness the condition of many of our public clinics, particularly those in rural areas.

"For the ministry, good health can be achieved through adequate and functioning health facilities."

Khairy said he had requested a special budget from the Finance Ministry to be approved in the upcoming 2023 Budget, which is slated to be tabled on Oct 7.

"This special budget is for the upgrading of building infrastructure, as well as the purchase and replacement of medical equipment."

On human resources, Khairy said his focus would be on the welfare of nurses and allied health personnel.

"The Health Ministry is not just about doctors, as there are more allied health personnel than doctors.

"Of course, the doctors are the specialist, but they are supported by allied health personnel.

"Therefore, it is in my plan that during my second year as a minister, or should I be given another term, to focus on allied health personnel.

"It requires planning and effort to get support from the cabinet and the Public Service Department so we can increase the number of staff and give promotions."

Asked what he could have done better as the health minister in addressing Covid-19, Khairy replied: "I have yet to (fully) process what had happened in the past two years.

"Such retrospective question on what we could have done better in addressing Covid-19, I believe that it would take us time to process and look back as we are still addressing the problem on a daily basis. This, despite the situation, is getting better now.

"That's a question for later I suppose," he said.

Meanwhile, Khairy said the Health Ministry staff had performed admirably in dealing with the unprecedented Covid-19.

"Of course, as a minister, I am proud of all the ministry staff. They have worked hard be it at the hospitals, Covid-19 Assessment Centres, Covid-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centres and thousands behind the scene on a daily basis, to drive the country out of the pandemic.

"If this (the pandemic) is to be once in a lifetime, or once in a generation, I think the Health Ministry staff had performed admirably and truly gone above and beyond their duty, risking their life."

On the issue of contract medical officers, Khairy said although not all of them were absorbed into permanent positions, 4,186 additional permanent posts were created in the ministry this year, covering the appointment of 3,586 medical officers, 300 dental and 300 pharmaceutical officers.

"We had successfully delivered more than 4,000 additional posts this year, the biggest since the contract system was introduced in 2017."

The number, he said was part of the 8,686 extra posts created for medical, dental and pharmaceutical officers starting this year to 2025.

The creation of permanent posts was approved by the cabinet early this year.

In addition, the cabinet had also agreed that a total of 800 permanent posts for medical specialists and 70 dental specialists to be established in the ministry every year, starting next year.

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