SUBANG JAYA, April 14 – Sivam, 65, takes a train at the USJ 19 LRT station every Wednesday for a one-and-half hour trip to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (GH) to get his dressing for a wound in his leg, collect his medication and return home to his house in USJ 19 here by late afternoon.
His trip into the city involves a change of train at the .KL Sentral to a train service that passes close to the KL Hospital. As it is too difficult for him to walk, he also takes a taxi from the station to the hospital.
He is full of praise for the Orthopaedic department in GH. “The nurses and doctors are really good. Most people with diabetic end up losing their leg, but the footcare in this department is simply good and my leg condition has improved since coming to this hospital for treatment.”
But why is he travelling all the way from USJ in Subang Jaya, Selangor to KL Hospital for his treatment? Could he not just go over to the Klinik Kesihatan in USJ 1, which was closed just before the Covid-19 pandemic and said to be opening again after some renovation? What about the Klinik Kesihatan in Kelana Jaya or even in Puchong?
“The USJ1 Klinik Kesihatan closed just before Covid-19 pandemic. It remains closed, Now, I hear there are no plans to open it again. As for the other two government clinics, they are outside Subang Jaya and they serve the people in those areas as well as foreigners.
“Besides, there are no direct buses or trains to these places from where I live. It is cheaper to travel by train all the way to KL Hospital even if it is time consuming, although I do wonder how long I can continue with my age catching up.
“It will be easier if there is a proper government hospital in Subang Jaya. Sometimes, when I get sick, my daughter who stays nearby takes me to a private clinic here, which are very costly. Some of them almost charge like the private hospitals in Subang Jaya. Only those with jobs and insurance can afford the private hospitals here,” said Sivam.
There are many more people like Sivam in Subang Jaya, with no government pension or even EPF.
There are those who have also come from outstation to work in Subang and a great deal of their income goes into rent and food. Then there are students who study in the nearby universities and institutions of higher learning living on a tight budget.
“Popping panadols for fever seems like a better option than visiting a nearby doctor and bearing the pain of the high fees charged by private clinics in the area,” says Jessie who works in USJ but lives with two other girls in a rented room in USJ 2.
Among others living in Subang Jaya, there also those who despite having a roof over their head, have incomes that are just enough to survive and those who have ceased working and dependent on the generosity of other family members to take care of them. They tend to be the older folks.
Then there also the odd job workers with no-fixed income and a family to take care.
All of them represent the urban poor in a satellite city of close to 500,000 population without a government health clinic reasonably nearby to serve them.
One reason for this lack of goverrnment facility in the area is attributed to the perceived “rich people” living in the area.
Subang Jaya is home to many affluent people, who tend to prefer the private hospitals where there is less waiting time for service and more significantly the money to afford such services. While the usual assumption is everyone is rich in this affluent residential area – where folks drive expensive cars and live in comfortable homes – it is inaccurate as a good number of them are also average or low income earners and the Covid-19 may have just made matters worse for them.
And they are forced to travel far to get treatment in government hospitals.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have made matters worse for many of the residents. While people including politicians and NGOs wait in line to serve the obviously poor, the not easily detected urban poor in Subang Jaya have been waiting long in a line for a decent government hospital in their area.
They struggle to pay their medical bills especially if they are left with no choice but to go to the nearest private hospital in the event of an emergency. This can be financially painful for those with no insurance coverage. During the pandemic, ambulances to government hospitals mostly catered for Covid-19 patients.
While the USJ1 Klinik Kesihatan had ceased to operate during the Covid-19, there was hope yet among many residents that it may start operating again. At least that was the answer given to earlier phone calls made by residents to the clinic. Sivam was one of them.
The recent announcement that the government had cancelled plans for the USJ1 health clinic in August 2021 came as a surprise for many like Sivam who had awaited the re-opening of the clinic.
On March 31st, Subang Member of Parliament Wong Chen and Subang Jaya state assemblywoman Michelle Ng sought an explanation on the government’s decision to cancel the USJ1 health clinic project.
The Malay Mail reported that high cost was cited as reason for cancelling the project, which had been approved under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) with a RM45 million allocation.
The paper quoted Wong saying that he had written to Health Minister on the status of the Klinik Kesihatan USJ1: “The minister, in his reply, stated that while the project was approved under the 12th Malaysian Plan, the project has since been cancelled by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) on August 4, 2021. The EPU is under the Prime Minister’s Department. The reason given by the EPU is that the project cost is too high at RM67.8 million. The reply also noted that the original budget for the project under RMK-12 was RM45 million.”
Wong said the reason given by the EPU in cancelling the project was not acceptable.
“If the project was originally approved for RM45 million, then the EPU must continue the project on the original cost of RM45 million. The higher budget of RM67.8 million requested by the Ministry of Health (MoH), should not be an excuse to cancel the project completely,” Wong said.
He also urged the MoH to explain why it requested for a higher budget than the original RM45 million, and why didn’t the ministry insist on getting the project going as per the original RM45 million cost.
The Malay Mail further reported that Wong lamented the inability of both the MoH and EPU to resolve the matter logically and to get the project going at the original RM45 million, saying that it only displayed a complete breakdown of communication and cooperation between the two ministries.
The people of Subang have been requesting for the clinic for over a decade, he pointed out.
“I want to remind the government that in the latest census of 2020, the total population of Subang parliamentary constituency stood at 478,000 people and there is not one single government hospital or health clinic within the constituency,” he said.
Ng, who also took the government to task for scrapping the plan, pointed out that 10 per cent of the population of Subang Jaya consists of the urban poor.
“The municipality also has an aging population. By 2025, 10 per cent of Subang Jaya’s population will be senior citizens. This number is expected to increase over time. With a population of 480,000, these groups comprise about 96,000 inhabitants. Therefore, it is clear from this figure that Subang Jaya is eligible to enjoy the facilities of the planned Type 3 Health Clinic, which is designed to serve a coverage area of over 30,000 to 50,000 people,” she added.
Ng said that the urban poor and the elderly in the area are in dire need of government medical facilities, given the financial status of their entire household, challenges in terms of mobility and health conditions which require more attention.