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Galen Moots Coordinating Minister For Health And Women, Family And Community Development

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 26 – The Galen Center for Health and Social Policy has proposed one minister to head both the ministries of health and women, family and community development.

Azrul Mohd Khalib, general manager of Galen Center, pointed out that currently no ministry is specifically tasked with aged care, amid an aged care crisis for which Malaysia is ill-prepared.

“Nobody wants to take on elder care. You don’t know who this issue belongs to – the Ministry of Health (MOH) pushes it over to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) and that ministry pushes it back to MOH.

“So you find the neglect is a symptom of that,” Azrul said BFM presenter Tee Shiao Eek yesterday on the radio station Health & Living: Doctor in the Home segment.

He said that MOH and KPWKM can keep the names of the ministries, but that the new minister should be in charge of both portfolios.

“If you look at other countries, health is not just a ministry in itself, it also exists alongside the other aspects. This goes back to the social determinants of health, because the continuum of care includes the environment, not just the delivery of clinical services, performing procedures, curing disease, and so on. It’s also about the environment.

“A good example of that is, of course, diseases like dengue and sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health, and so on. What could happen in this government as the Prime Minister has promised to reduce the size of the cabinet could there be a minister in charge of two ministries — a minister in charge of both the health ministry and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

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“So that when we look at care, it’s a continuum of care, not just one aspect, which is health care.”

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said this at a press conference yesterday that talks are being held between the parties that make up the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government to downsize the cabinet.

Azrul pointed out that Malaysia is only eight years away from 2030, when at least one in 10 Malaysians is predicted to be 66 or older, or about 15 percent of the total population.

“It has been stated that Malaysia is ill-prepared at that time and ill-prepared to provide the kind of care to a large group of people who are older and need advanced care.”

PH’s manifesto for the 15th General Election praised the creating a care economy to professionalise the healthcare sector, with the planned submission of a National Care Economy and Aging Community Preparedness Plan (SiagaJaga) to Parliament.

Newly elected Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee Chuan How, who is also a member of the DAP’s central executive committee, previously told Code Blue in an interview that a proposed RM10 billion spend on the SiagaJaga plan over three years would require inter-ministerial funding, including from the Ministry of Human Resources, MOH and KPWKM.

Consultant urologist Dr. George Lee, who was also part of the BFM discussion entitled “What do you want from the next health minister?”, instead suggested additional roles for the health director general to ensure continuity of the care outside health care.

However, Azrul said the Director General of Health is typically a trained medical professional who may not understand the continuum of care beyond his specialty, adding that the DG’s powers should also be limited to prevent the jurisdiction of the Minister of Health is exceeded.

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“Today it is too easy to say that the DG has to do all that, but really it is the responsibility of an elected government official, belonging to the Minister of Health, to hold them accountable,” he said.

“The director general is a civil servant. There will be political questions to be answered and realistically we can’t, to be honest, you can’t ask a public official to answer for that.

“These things include funding issues, as well as making recommendations for perhaps dramatic policy changes. These still have to be from the health minister, especially reforms.

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