Newly-appointed Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will need someone new to lead the health portfolio and it should not be Dr Adham Baba, says a former deputy health minister.
Dr Lee Boon Chye said there are plenty of qualified individuals who can fit the role.
“He can appoint a professional outside of the political circle. This is a matter of public health,” Lee told FMT, adding that the public healthcare system must remain apolitical.
He also said the new government should look into further speeding up the vaccination rate and target the remaining 4.5 million people who remain unregistered.
There should also be a stronger contact tracing team to handle Covid-19 outbreaks, he added.
“The previous administration failed to develop good contact tracing because they did not have enough human resources,” he said. “I hope he (Ismail) realises that flip-flop SOPs also caused much damage.”
Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive officer of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, said a fresh face for the health portfolio “wouldn’t hurt”, but it should be someone who is smart and willing to listen to all parties or learn from others.
He said the new government must be prepared to face a surge of Covid-19 cases in states outside the Klang Valley, especially in East Malaysia.
Azrul said it should also avoid repeating the Perikatan Nasional administration’s mistakes of “being complacent and letting down their guard, declaring achievements when there is no evidence that they are sustainable or even certain to begin with”.
The new administration should also anticipate the future needs of responding to the pandemic without being forced to tap into national reserves, he added.
Communications on Covid-19 management must continue to emphasise SOP compliance and vaccination, while more granular data should be provided to the public and professionals, Azrul said.
“Consultations with civil society are key. The previous government barely consulted with experts beyond their own people, which resulted in tunnel vision and lack of objectivity,” he said.
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy hoped Ismail’s Cabinet would work on solving the issues faced by contract doctors over the last five years, particularly awarding more permanent posts.
“These doctors want to do a service to the country. I hope their talent will be utilised. It should not be wasted. That will be our greatest aim apart from Covid-19.”
Noting that Ismail had been at the forefront of pandemic management in the previous government, Subramaniam remained hopeful that the prime minister would review the country’s current approach and set aside political agendas for the sake of public health. – FMT