NIBONG TEBAL, June 22 — Hospitalised patients may be able to fulfill their voting responsibilities in the upcoming Sungai Bakap by-election, subject to approval and risk assessment by doctors, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said.

He said high-risk patients should seek medical advice from specialists before venturing out to vote, to prevent any unforeseen complications.

“I’m confident that patients will heed their doctor’s advice and, if allowed, exercise their right to vote,” he told reporters following a working visit to the Sungai Bakap Hospital here today.

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He was responding to queries about potential obstacles faced by hospitalised patients wanting to vote in the by-election on July 6.

During his visit, Dzulkefly was also briefed on daily operations and current healthcare developments in the Seberang Perai Selatan (SPS) district, and officiated the opening of the hospital’s upgraded Emergency and Trauma Department.

He also said that the Penang Health Department has identified a suitable 2,096-hectare site adjacent to Sungai Bakap Hospital for the construction of a new hospital building. This decision follows the area’s rapid population growth and the ageing status of the current hospital, which is over 130 years old.

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Dzulkefly said discussions initiated by former Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa in August 2023 with the Penang government paving the way for securing an appropriate site for the new hospital.

“I will ensure the project progresses smoothly. We’re still in the preliminary stages of land acquisition, but we have identified a suitable site and the next step is to secure the necessary funding,” he said.

Regarding the timing of his hospital visit coinciding with the nomination day for the Sungai Bakap by-election, Dzulkefly clarified that the visit had been scheduled nearly a year ago as part of the ‘Malaysia Sihat’ national agenda.

“This week coincides with my scheduled visit to Penang. I’m simply fulfilling my ministerial duties and have no ‘goodies’ to offer, apart from meeting with the State Health director, hospital staff and officials,” he added.

The Sungai Bakap by-election, triggered by the death of incumbent Nor Zamri Latiff on May 24 due to stomach inflammation, will witness a straight fight between Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Joohari Ariffin and candidate from Perikatan Nasional (PN) Abidin Ismail. — Bernama