Hornbill Unleashed

February 28, 2012

Govt health facilities for rural communities in Sarawak

Filed under: Dams,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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What the authorities are doing to meet healthcare needs in remote areas.

HEALTH Ministry director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman explains in an e-mail reply to our questions that there are 10 government clinics serving rural communities along Sarawak’s main river transport artery, Sungai Baram, and a further eight serving the more remote Baram tributaries. These are part of a network of 30 government clinics throughout the Marudi district in which Baram is located; the district has a population of 60,000.

On the map, government health facilities appear well distributed along Sungai Baram to cater to rural communities. Additionally, the Health Ministry operates a mobile health service programme from these clinics, sending teams out to villages that are situated in extended operational areas (that is, in areas that require more than an hour of travel to reach).

The mobile teams visit villages once a month according to a schedule prepared by the assistant medical officer (MO) of each clinic (most clinics are staffed only by the MOs).

The visits are aimed at providing “curative, preventive and promotive services”. Priority is given to services like ante- and post- natal health care, child health, immunisation, and family planning.


“Most of the villages are connected by logging roads,” Dr Hasan points out, adding: “It is true that at certain times, the river is low and this therefore impedes transportation. The Sarawak Health Department will continue in its effort to provide mobile health services to these remote areas. However, if the water is that low, even our services may not be able to reach these remote villages.

“As such, we have a Village Health Promoter programme in which we train volunteers from the villages to provide first aid, such as providing oral rehydration salts to treat uncomplicated diarrhoea, during the times when the health team is not in the village.”

He points out that all clinics are staffed by assistant medical officers and community nurses who attend to patients and can refer the seriously ill to the nearest hospital that has specialists, such as Miri Hospital.

“Even though these rural health facilities are run by assistant medical officers and community nurses, it does not mean that the services they provide are inferior,” says Dr Hasan.

“They are specially trained to provide services that meet the health needs of those small communities, and to refer to hospitals those needing more investigation or specialised care.”

Additionally, he adds, the Flying Doctor Service remains in operation, covering 38 locations in the Baram district that are visited monthly by teams.

As for Long Lama, he explains that a state-initiated Rural Growth Centre (these are planned nodes of development) has been identified near the present location of the Long Lama bazaar, on the same side of the river as the road linking the bazaar to Miri.

“The new Long Lama clinic is in the RGC, as is the school, post office, sub-district office, etc,” he says. “The clinic is less than 2km from Long Lama and at the moment a ferry connects both sides of the river. The relocation of these facilities (to the RGC) may cause short term inconveniences, but it is necessary in the long run.”

While gastric problems and diarrhoea are common ailments, statistics show that diseases of the respiratory system are the major cause for outpatient health care. In 2010, there were some 109,232 cases, or nearly 30%, topping the list of 10 principal causes of new attendances, followed by congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities with 73,487 cases, or 20%.

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