Yayasan 1Malaysia (the 1Malaysia Foundation) commends the Dato Sri Najib government for implementing 1Malaysia clinics in different parts of the country. For now, 44 out of the 50 clinics earmarked for the first phase of the programme have begun operations.
Aimed at providing quality primary healthcare to the urban poor, these clinics will be located in the less advantaged areas of the city. The paramedics who will manage the clinics will attend to minor ailments for which they are trained. They will be under the supervision of a doctor. More important, a patient, we are told, will be charged only a ringgit per visit to any 1Malaysia clinic.
Since these clinics provide service to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, their role could help, in a small way, to strengthen the idea that the needs of all Malaysians will be taken care of in a fair and just manner. To the extent that it is possible, 1Malaysia clinics should be located in multi-ethnic settings. The paramedics staffing the clinics should also— if feasible — come from different ethnic backgrounds.
If 1Malaysia clinics target directly the perennial question of social justice and address indirectly the complex challenge of ethnic integration, there is no reason why doctors should not volunteer to involve themselves in this excellent community based initiative. We are told by the Director-General of Health, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Ismail Merican, ( NST 1 January 2010) that the Ministry of Health, which is managing the programme, has enlisted a group of doctors in the public and private sectors who will see 1Malaysia clinic patients that require urgent attention. In addition to this, Yayasan 1Malaysia feels that the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) should encourage its members, especially those living and working in the vicinity of these clinics, to set aside three or four hours a week to work with, and perhaps even guide, 1Malaysia paramedics. This free, voluntary work on the part of the MMA doctors could be considered public service of a high order, and should be recognized as such by state and society.
While the 1Malaysia clinic is a significant milestone in the endeavor to improve the quality of life of low- income denizens of urban Malaysia, the government knows that there is much more to be done to raise the dignity of the poor and marginalized in our midst.
Board of Trustees,
10 January 2010.