By Fathol Bukhari
Malaysia’s healthcare, according to a survey, is considered the third best in the world. This is no idle boast as being tagged world best, regardless of the number, is the icing on the cake for our nation’s leaders. After all, our education system has been claimed as the best in the world and, likewise, our country – the best democracy on Earth!
Although many may consider the latter two as hogwash, the fact remains that our healthcare is considerably good comparatively, given the kind of money that is being invested annually to upgrade existing facilities.If we were to compare to our neighbours within Asean, we definitely have a head start. Kudos to the government for making this happen. Either by commission or omission it does not really matter, as the fact speaks for itself.
Well, I am not about to dwell on the merits of being third best and not first or second best. I shall leave it to the critics to make sense of the numbers game. My deliberation, however, shall be confined to Ipoh’s Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, the flagship of our state’s medical service.
Based on archival records, Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh was started by the British as a district hospital in 1891. The Pangkor Treaty of 1974 signalled the beginning of British intervention in the Malay states. The period between the two events was less than two decades apart. This could be the result of an expanding economy driven by the robust tin and rubber industries then. There was definitely a need for a rudimentary medical facility to service a growing population.
Prior to the Japanese Occupation in 1941, the hospital was upgraded to a state hospital catering for the needs of the populace. It remained in abeyance, but not necessarily ignored, during the reign of the Japanese Imperial Army (1941 to 1945).
The prominent 8-storey building, by which the hospital is identified, was built in 1980. Other add-ons came in drips and drabs – the specialist clinic in 1992 and the out-patient complex in 2005. A major development, however, was in the offing. On the occasion of HRH Sultan of Perak’s 80th birthday on June 12, 2008 the facility was renamed Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun to better reflect its importance to the state. From a humble beginning of only 50 beds the hospital today boasts a capacity of almost 1000 beds.
As cardiac care is still in its infancy, the state government plans on spending RM 6 million to build an invasive cardiology laboratory to treat patients with heart ailments. This will invariably reduce the hospital’s dependence on IJN (Institut Jantung Negara) in Kuala Lumpur. The federal government has promised RM 9 million for the unit, which is scheduled to operate this month.
A sum of RM240 million has been approved by the state government to upgrade existing facilities in the hospital. Of the said amount, RM160 million willbe allotted for the building of a pediatric unit and a maternity unit while the remaining RM80 million for the establishment of a cardiology department. In the pipeline is a RM300-million allocation from the federal government to augment the proposed facilities.
In spite of the many “goodies” coming the way of Ipoh’s general hospital no mention is made of ways to overcome the onerous problem facing Ipohites on a daily basis – parking! Overcrowding and the lack of parking space within the hospital complex have forced patients, visitors and medical staff alike to use the main road as a convenient alternative.
The problem is becoming more acute each passing day. Since space is a constraint, the only way out is to go upwards – build a dedicated multi-tiered parking lot similar to the one at KLIA. Unfortunately, there is no monetary allocation for a car park in the expansion programme. This problem should not be overlooked no matter how insignificant it may be. The free shuttle bus service from Velodrome Rakyat introduced in 2011 is not viable, as the response has been poor due to a number of reasons – lack of publicity being one.
As Ipohites grapple with this deficiency, they risk getting booked by traffic police for their bravado. But do they have a choice?