Kudat: The health clinic in Pulau Banggi is providing health care not only to residents but also foreigners who come from as far as Pulau Mangsi, an island in the Philippines.
As one approaches the island via ferry from Kudat, the first structure which catches the eye is the white concrete building of the health clinic which many may mistake for a hospital due to its size.
The health clinic which can accommodate 18 in-house patients at any one time, has a manpower of about 42 staff comprising a doctor, a dentist, three medical assistants, 13 nurses and one pharmacist among others.
With it being just 30 minutes boat ride from the Philippine international boundary to Pulau Banggi and 30 nautical miles or two-hour ferry ride to Palawan Island in the Philippines, the clinic has been receiving patients comprising citizens and non-citizens seeking medical assistance.
During a visit to Sabah recently, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez confirmed that Filipinos from south, including Palawan, have long been going to Pulau Banggi by boat for medical treatment.
Its Head Nurse Mailin Tabileh when met at the two-day “Birth Registration Awareness for Community Leaders in Pulau Banggi” campaign said medical assistance was given to foreigners based on humanitarian grounds, be they legal or illegal immigrants.
“Most of those who come here for emergency cases are from Pulau Mangsi, very seldom do we have those coming in from Palawan Island,” she said.
“Most of the times, they have already received medical treatment in Pulau Mangsi but when their midwife cannot treat them, they would request assistance from us,” she added.
She said the procedure for them to obtain medical treatment was, firstly, they will be registered with certain medical fees imposed.
“A RM1 fee would be imposed on citizens upon registration and all medical services that follow are free, however foreigners will be imposed a registration fee of RM23, while other medical services such as urine test, blood test and ultrasound would be charged a different fee,” she said.
“When patients with acute or chronic cases come to us, we will send them to the Kudat Hospital and since Kudat has never referred them to the Immigration Department, we also do not refer them to the Immigration because our duty is to save lives.
She said however that on average, Malaysian patients number still higher compared to foreigners.
“This could perhaps be due to medical fees imposed on non-citizens and it has become very seldom that they come here for treatment since the medical fees were increased,” she said.
On another matter, she said there were also concerns where local residents could not come to the clinic due to geographical and financial issues.
“We have mobile clinic services where each month we will visit different villages, however Pulau Banggi is a huge island and having only one health clinic is not enough to accommodate the medical needs of the population here. “There is also the issue of distance, where expectant mothers in far-flung villages have no choice but to deliver their baby at home,” she said.
It was learnt that there is a need for proper boats equipped with medical features, as the health clinic has only one boat which is also used for the mobile clinic.
“When faced with cases which need immediate medical assistance, we have to cancel the mobile boat services or sometimes we would borrow boats from Felcra and that would take up a huge cost because we have to pay for petrol from Pulau Banggi to get to Kudat which is about 500 litres of petrol,” she said.
She said the mobile clinic would move sometimes twice a day to Kudat depending on the urgency.
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