Increase spending on healthcare system to address future pandemics, Malaysian infectious diseases expert Dr Adeeba tells govt

On containing Covid-19, Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman noted that there are no automated testing systems and most things are still done manually; she recommended an expansion in testing and contact tracing while the isolation and support of those infected by Covid-19 need to be continued. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
On containing Covid-19, Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman noted that there are no automated testing systems and most things are still done manually; she recommended an expansion in testing and contact tracing while the isolation and support of those infected by Covid-19 need to be continued. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 ― The Malaysian government should be spending about seven to eight per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to improve the healthcare system, said medical expert Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman.

She noted that although the budget allocation for healthcare was the second highest after education, it was only at about four per cent of GDP.

Malaysia’s healthcare expenditure stood at 3.75 per cent of GDP in 2018, according to World Bank data.

In Budget 2021, the overall allocation to the Health Ministry increased from RM30.6 billion to RM31.9 billion, a 4.3 per cent increase year-on-year.

“One thing that we should learn from this Covid-19 pandemic is that we must invest more wisely, not necessarily building bigger, shinier hospitals, but in addressing the urban-rural divide and the rise in the geriatric population.

“However, we are not necessarily living better because of our high prevalence of diabetes, obesity, high-end stage renal failure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic lung diseases and so on which are adding to the burden of the healthcare system,” she said in a virtual conversation with MIDF Amanah Investment Bank chief executive officer Datuk Dominic Silva today.

Dr Adeeba is the professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Universiti Malaya, adjunct associate professor at Yale University, president of the International AIDS Society and a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Science Council.

She said the healthcare transformation and strengthening of primary healthcare in the country is crucially needed to address the aging population and the increase of non-communicable diseases and to manage threats of future pandemics.

On containing Covid-19, Dr Adeeba noted that there are no automated testing systems and most things are still done manually; she recommended an expansion in testing and contact tracing while the isolation and support of those infected by Covid-19 need to be continued.

“It is also important to bring people together to have ownership of whatever standard operating procedures (SOPs), to see if it is workable or not. Collaboration and agency coordination can be better improved with businesses, non-governmental organisations and the community on the ground,” she said.

Dr Adeeba also called on employers, especially those with foreign workers, to be more responsible for any outbreak that happens in their premises.

She cited Singapore as an example where the disease was controlled by ensuring adequate and proper housing for migrant workers, besides vaccinations and regular testings. ― Bernama 

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