KUCHING, MALAYSIA — Unlike Lumpurians who enjoy abundant resources and healthcare facilities convenient in the country’s metropolitan, Sarawakians who live in rural areas will need to travel vast distances to access healthcare services.
A video shared by local netizen Jesse Bandang, shows a woman hugging and kissing a baby dearly who appears to have left her mother with no signs of life.
It is understood that the incident took place on 5 December, when a mother from the small town of Julau had to bring her nine-month-old baby, travelling by bus to Kuching to seek medical help.
There is no hospital in Julau town, based on a search in the Malaysia Health Ministry’s directory. The nearest hospital to the town is located in Sarikei.
It is believed that the mother had hoped for her baby to get better treatment at the state capital’s hospital, which is 389km from Julau, nearly 6 hours by land transport.
Only God would know how the mother had suffered as her baby became lifeless as they arrived at a rest stop in Jelukong, which is still halfway to the state capital.
Another Lawas elderly dies in ambulance while waiting for ICQS gate to open
Besides the above sorrowful story, Sarawak media Borneo Post reported that an elderly woman from Lawas passed away in an ambulance as it was sending her to the Miri Hospital on 6 December.
There was no one to open the gate at Sungai Tujoh Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security (ICQS), which is under Malaysia’s jurisdiction.
Lawas is the northernmost town in Sarawak.
The ambulance has to cross the Brunei border to reach Miri Hospital.
Although it is only a 30 mins ride from Sungai Tujoh ICQS to the hospital:
Pastor Billy John, who accompanied the woman, said that there was nobody at the gate when the ambulance arrived there around 1.30 am, “The driver blared the horn, but the security guard said the person holding the key was not there at the time.”
“As such, we had to force open the gate to continue our journey,” said Billy, adding that they had some help from a few local People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) members to break open the gate.
The ambulance only managed to arrive at the hospital around 3 am.
Billy John, who is also the woman’s nephew, said she had heart problems, “That night, she complained of breathing difficulties. I immediately called Lawas Hospital, requesting for an ambulance.”
Unfortunately, certain facilities or equipment are only available at bigger hospitals in cities such as Miri. Therefore, the woman had to be diverted to Miri Hospital.
The plan to upgrade Lawas hospital to a minor specialist hospital was only announced just before the 15th Malaysia General Election.
Netizens urged Malaysia govt to improve healthcare access in rural areas
Many netizens poured in condolences and sympathy for the mother in the comments section, and some of them also pointed out the rural inequalities in the country when the resource and development of the country had been over-concentrated in West Peninsula Malaysia.
Tehmina Kaoosji, Independent Broadcast Journalist based in Malaysia, commented on Twitter, reminded that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum of 2.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people for countries with a low level of economic development.
“Devastating. No babies in a country with universal healthcare coverage should die in mother’s arms on the way to the hospital, ” she added that Julau is a town of 15,333 people, which clearly merited having its own hospital.
Devastating. No babies in a country with universal healthcare coverage should die in mother’s arms otw to 🏥
FYI- WHO recommends min 2.5 🏥 beds per 1,000 people for countries with ⬇️ level of econ devpt.
Julau is a town of 15,333 people- CLEARLY meriting it’s own hospital. https://t.co/swXcuz1KCc
— Tehmina Kaoosji (@TehminaKaoosji) December 8, 2022
Other netizens on Twitter also called out the local MP to ask for a new hospital from the Federal government to be built in Julau:
Larry Sng kena mohon hospital baru di kawasan Julauhttps://t.co/QnjEDAr9Bv
— Lee SlimShady (@LeeSlimShady) December 8, 2022
e_lluminaughty said: “The reality of healthcare infrastructures in Sarawak is saddening & infuriating.”