Govt told: Don’t drag feet on Sabah Heart Centre


sabah-flag1Kota Kinabalu: The Society for Sabah Heart Fund (SOS Heart Fund) wants the Federal Government to speed up construction of the proposed Sabah Heart Centre (SHC).

Its President Datuk Christine Tibok-Vanhouten said it is high time for Sabah to have a Ministry of Health (MOH) Cardiac Centre given the State’s population of 3.1 million, making it the second most populous state after Selangor.

“Where is the political will to make things happen? I think Malaysians in Sabah deserve better treatment. Moreover, we have a long waiting-list of heart patients who require surgery. Yet, there are no round-the-clock cardiac-cardiothoracic services.

“The one-week monthly visit to the Sabah Medical Centre (SMC) by the National Heart Institute (IJN) Team is inadequate. It is unable to provide treatment for cardiac emergencies between IJN visits.

“Heart attack patients will have a better chance of survival if they are fast-tracked into the Cardiac Catheter Lab for treatment,” she said. Right now, SMC has the only cardiac catheter lab in Sabah. Ninety-five per cent of cases are referrals from the QEH, according to Vanhouten.

At the rate things are going, she contended that the Federal Government appears to be not serious about Sabah’s health needs “as reflected in its fickle-mindedness about an interim QEH Hospital and the proposed SHC.”

“These days, we are hearing of so many proposals to replace the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Tower Block which has been declared unsafe.

The Ministry of Health is reportedly looking into all the proposals.

In August last year, the Ministry appeared to have given the “greenlight” to acquire SMC. “The latest development was that the MOH was considering taking over the vacant Wisma Khidmat as an alternative to the QEH Tower Block.

“But can you integrate the proposed Sabah Heart Centre into the Khidmat building, pending completion of the QEH Twin-Towers?

“During the Health Minister’s last visit, he said the Ministry was considering all the proposals and the time frame for this would be less than a year. Do they know that people may be dying from heart diseases for want of cardiac services while they (Government) drag their feet over the matter?” asked Vanhouten.

Based on media reports, the Federal Government as disclosed by the Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai had initially approved some RM80 million for the proposed Sabah Cardiac Centre. But due to expansion of the scope of work, the project cost had increased to RM140 million, according to him. So, the MOH was seeking an additional RM60 million for the centre.

“Has the amount been approved?” asked Vanhouten. “By his own admission, the centre was urgently needed as some 100 heart patients from Sabah were being sent to the IJN every year for surgery. In addition, there were about 174 open heart surgeries being carried out in the State by IJN surgeons annually.”

She noted that nothing was mentioned about the proposed Sabah Heart Centre in the Government’s second economic stimulus package totalling RM60 billion, dubbed Mini-Budget, which was unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on March 10.

Meanwhile, Vanhouten thanked the State Government for its annual grant to SOS Heart Fund.

“But for how long can we depend on the Government for funds?” she asked.

Since its inception, she said, the Society has sent almost 500 patients to Kuala Lumpur and Korea for corrective heart surgeries. “SOS Heart Fund has existed for 30 years, and there is still no MOH Heart Centre in Sabah,” she lamented.


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