KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa admitted today that emergency departments at public hospitals are severely overwhelmed, suggesting that immediate action is needed to resolve the severe manpower and equipment shortages besetting most public hospitals.
The admission came amid growing warnings about the mental and physical fatigue suffered by both staff and patients, which healthcare activists have warned could cause the public healthcare system to collapse if it remained unaddressed.
The minister has vowed to find solutions upon taking office. On Twitter this morning, Dr Zaliha said her ministry must acknowledge the “scale of the problem”, an assertion based on her observation made during a field visit to public emergency departments.
“Frontline staff here are struggling because patients who were supposed to be admitted were stuck in ED. Delays in admissions have an adverse domino effect,” she wrote.
“ What is being done? Acknowledgment of the scale of the problem, as well as the physical & mental fatigue faced by staff & patients on the ground,” the Sekijang MP added.
CodeBlue, an online health news site, recently published its survey findings that exposed deep fault lines within the public healthcare system, with 95 per cent of respondents, mostly healthcare workers, saying they believe public hospitals are in a “crisis”.
Another 80 per cent of the respondents said they felt overworked and underpaid, while 74 per cent said they suffered from burn out. More than three-fifths of respondents also said they were skeptical of the prospect of career progression.
The survey was titled “Dissatisfaction Among Health Care Professionals and Workers in Malaysia’s Health Service”.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is expected to retain the proposed increase in allocation of RM36.14 billion for the Ministry of Health (MoH) under Budget 2023, an increase of about 11.5 per cent from RM32.41 billion allocated in Budget 2022.
Dr Zaliha has pledged to table a Health White Paper in a bid to resolve the entrenched issues facing public healthcare.
She said on Twitter this morning that the problems facing public EDs are “inherited and systemic”.
“But some can be tackled at a local level with sufficient engagement. Many frontliners have worked beyond the call of duty during the pandemic, and continue to do so as we face a tsunami of NCDs (non-communicative diseases) post-pandemic,” the minister wrote.
The MoH has pledged to internal discussions and gives clearer directions regarding staffing and opening up of more beds to that particular hospital.
“We will continue to listen, and continue to work on identifying solutions both internally and when advocating for our frontliners in ongoing discussions with MOF,” the minister said.