Opposition lawmakers: Health minister’s ‘surreal’ parliamentary address leaves many questions unanswered over govt’s Covid-19 strategy

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba during his winding-up speech in Parliament, July 27, 2021. — Bernama pic
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba during his winding-up speech in Parliament, July 27, 2021. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — Opposition lawmakers have today criticised Health Minister Datuk Seri Adham Baba for failing to outline the Health Ministry’s plan under the National Recovery Plan (NRP) to mitigate the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic during a special Parliament meeting held yesterday.

In expressing his shock and disappointment, Damansara MP Tony Pua said there was absolutely zero mention of the NRP as presented previously by the finance minister and prime minister a day prior in the entirety of Dr Adham’s 55-minute speech to federal lawmakers.

“Members of Parliament listened to the minister of health rattle on paragraph after paragraph of statistics and listed a litany of measures which have been taken by his Ministry yesterday.

“However, there was no qualitative evaluation of these statistics and measures. There was no discussion of the policies success or failures over the past 16 months, no review of how the policy direction needs to be adapted and re-focused to learn from past mistakes,” he said in a statement here.

Calling upon Dr Adham to immediately endorse the NRP and present the ministry’s plan in enforcing the strategies expounded within the NRP, Pua also chose to emphasise one of the NRP’s chapters which attributed the Find, Trace, Test, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) strategy as a key measure to reduce Covid-19 infectivity.

“The NRP made FTTIS the single most important strategy of the short chapter, with a focus on ‘mass expansion of testing through Government and community efforts’.

“Unfortunately, listening to the clarification speech by the health minister felt completely surreal because there was not a single reference to FTTIS as a holistic strategy to contain and mitigate the pandemic going forward.

“In an extremely short two-paragraph section of the speech, Dr Adham Baba merely regurgitated the testing numbers and statistics which have been carried out to date. There was zero mention on the testing strategy going forward,” he said.

He added that if the FTTIS was critical to the success of the NRP, then it falls upon the Health Ministry to flesh out the measures and policies to achieve said goals — such as testing to be carried out proportionate to the positivity rates or how 75 per cent of contact tracing done within 48 hours — none of which was elaborated by Dr Adham during the Parliament sitting on yesterday.

Pua said if Dr Adham lacked the intention to do so, the Tenggara MP should resign or be sacked and a competent minister be appointed in his place to deliver the goals of the NRP.

Separately, Klang MP Charles Santiago also called upon the government to be more responsive in mobilising and increasing the number of medical staff, citing the recent lack of urgency displayed by the health minister during a special Parliament sitting yesterday.

Charles said he had raised the issue of healthcare facilities throughout the Klang Valley facing severe shortages of medical staff, ambulance, medical equipment and treatment wards but was given a seemingly nonchalant response by Dr Adham.

“In responding to me, the health minister promised to have an impromptu walkabout at hospitals.

“Let me ask you a question: how would you react to this when we are racing against time as our public health system is on the verge of collapsing?” he asked in a statement.

He cited several anecdotes of public hospitals breaching their intended capacities for the treatment of Covid-19, including Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) located within his constituency.

He described the hospital as a living hell for both patients and frontliners, exacerbated by the lethal combination of a high admission rate of Covid-19 patients, low staffing and inadequate medical equipment.

“The government promised to transfer more medical personnel from other states to support the Klang General Hospital but unfortunately, the promise remains unfulfilled.

“Although many new wards have been opened, the staff shortage in Klang is still a significant issue, and it is getting worse and chaotically out of control.

“The Health Ministry must transfer or dismiss hospital directors who have failed to administer efficiently in this critical time,” he said.

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