Sabah needs a true Minister of health, not a fake one

Kota Kinabalu, Sunday, 18 October 2020

As reported, two experts have claimed that Sabah should have a Minister of Health. These experts are the President of the Malaysia Medical Association (MMA), (Professor Datuk Dr. Subramanian Muniandy) and the Chief Executive Officer of Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy (Encik Azrul Khallid). Both experts are based in Kuala Lumpur.

As a lawyer, and not a medical expert, I hope these experts realise that what Sabah needs is a true Minister of Health and not a fake Health minister.

From June 2018 to September 2020, the so-called Sabah Health Minister and his “Health Ministry” had absolutely no authority over the medical services in Sabah. Did any member of the MMA or its Sabah branch ever bother about the “Sabah Minister of Health”?

Sabah’s former Ministry of Health had no budget, no power

What is the budget for medical services in the so-called Ministry of Health? Nil.

What legal authority did that” Health Ministry” have over any hospital, clinic or medical officer? None.

Did that Health Ministry have any say in the training, registration and practice of any medical officer in Sabah? None.

Instead, when the then “Minister of Health” visited hospitals, he was asked to donate filing cabinets and to repair car parks.  Please, I call on the medical experts in Kuala Lumpur to stop making fun of Sabah. It is bad enough that Sabahans have been duped by the last Warisan government.

The way forward for a true Sabah Health Ministry

Now, if we want a true Health Minister for Sabah, the following actions need to be taken:-

1.            In the Federal constitution, the item “Medicine and health” (hospitals, clinics, medical profession etc.) to be transferred from the Federal List to the State List. This means that Health will truly become a state government matter.

2.            All the federal budget that is to be spent on the Medical services in Sabah to be transferred to the Sabah government. This is in the billions of ringgit per annum.

3.            The Medical Act 1971 to be amended by taking Sabah (and maybe Sarawak) out of that Act. A new “Sabah Medical Act 2021” to be enacted by parliament that empowers the Sabah government to govern the medical services and to regulate the medical profession such as doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.

4.            The Malaysia Medical Council to be renamed Peninsula Malaysia Medical Council. A new Sabah Medical Council to be created in that “Sabah Medical Act 2021” to govern the registration and practice of the medical profession in Sabah.

5.            In the meantime, the Malaysia Medical Council to be reconstituted so that one third of its council members come from Sabah, and one third from Sarawak, consistent with the principle of equal status. At the moment, only 2 of the 32 members of the Malaysia Medical Council are from Sabah.

6.            The MMA to tell the federal government to transfer “health” from federal to Sabah state authority. Similarly, the Galen Centre, which is an independent public policy organisation, should openly voice support for the above transfer of “health” from federal to State authority.

Sabah Law Society a success story

In Sabah, the Sabah government should support the Sabah Medical Association (SAMA), founded in 1971, to become the fore runner of the Sabah Medical Council. This is similar to the Sabah Law Association, which is an NGO, that pursued and got the Sabah Law Society (a statutory body) after 20 years of persistence. This SLS has regulatory and disciplinary powers over the legal profession in Sabah. In other words, the Bar Council of Malaysia has no power over the legal profession in Sabah.

Learn from the success story of the Sabah Law Society, a statutory body established by the Advocates Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 2) (as amended by the Advocates (Sabah)(Amendment) Act 2016) which came into effect on 1 July 2017. The legal profession in Peninsula Malaysia and in Sarawak are separately government by their own Bar Council and The Advocates Association of Sarawak respectively.

Until such time that the above constitutional and financial actions are taken, any call for the creation of a Health Ministry for Sabah is to make fun of Sabahans.

Datuk Yong Teck Lee
SAPP President, Lawyer, Ex-Chief Minister, Assemblyman (Nominated)

Author: Johnny Chin