Let us all mind our health

I HAD to visit a relative at Batu Pahat's Sultanah Nora Ismail Hospital on the first day of Hari Raya and the first thing I want to say is, let us take our hats off to hospital staff nationwide for their "business as usual" sacrifices.

I say sacrifices because staff like nurses, hospital assistants and attendants at most government hospitals are predominantly Malays and Hari Raya is the occasion closest to their hearts to be with loved ones back in the kampungs.

And of course, to savour the "must have" Hari Raya dishes like lemang, ketupat and rendang.

The nurses in the ward that I visited went about their work oblivious to the celebration outside and despite having their hands full they were smiling as usual, this time not to their parents or siblings back home but another set of their loved ones, their patients.

I have written in the past praising their devotion and dedication to duty and without any hesitation I would say that they are truly the nation's unsung heroes, like the security forces and the police manning our strategic outposts.

If there is one thing Malaysians should count our blessings for as citizens, it is that we have arguably the world's best public healthcare system. And this is internationally recognised and envied.

Even countries like the United States are still "struggling" to settle for the best system for their lower-income citizens as could be seen when one of the first things that President Donald Trump did when he came into office in January was to replace the Obamacare scheme.

Not many countries have what we have in terms of healthcare, except those categorised as welfare states.

To say that our public healthcare is affordable for all at government clinics and hospitals located in virtually every nook and corner is an understatement. It's more than affordable and in most cases, free.

Imagine most people just pay a token RM1 each time they go to the outpatient wing of a hospital and leave the place with all kinds of medicine.

I was at the pharmacy section of Kuala Lumpur Hospital recently and saw an obese person with a big plastic bag of medicines.

"Why so much medicines, and how much did you have to pay?" I asked him.

"This is for my three months' stock and I paid nothing. I have multiple ailments," he said with a smile. How blessed can one be.

Of course, Malaysians who can afford it avoid government clinics and hospitals due to the congestion and prefer private ones. Well and good for the private clinics and hospitals have an important role, too, in the overall healthcare system.

It goes without saying that the national budget to sustain public healthcare is huge and coupled with the money that health insurance schemes cough up annually, the amount could be mind-boggling.
What does all this show?

Doctors I speak to agreed that generally, Malaysians are an unhealthy lot.

We are not proud of it but it's a fact that within our 30 million population, we can boast to have one of the world's highest rates of obese people, plus killer conditions like diabetes, hypertension and kidney-related ones. Something out of the box must be done to check this situation.

If the Health Ministry and the corporate sector could afford it, massive campaigns are necessary to jolt the people to opt for a healthier lifestyle. Things cannot go on as they are because healthcare costs are soaring and there might come a time when they become unsustainable.

The greatest service that we citizens can give back to the nation – and to the over-worked hospital staff – is to stay healthy, eat right and avoid smoking.

Prominent physiotherapist Datuk Dr Balwant Singh Bains is a crusader against the favourite Malaysian drink – teh tarik.

He told me that teh tarik, like Coke, has a very high sugar content as the sweetened milk in this beverage is nothing but sugar with no milk.

He says one thing in common among victims of stroke whom he treats is that they all love teh tarik.

Malaysia is a teh tarik haven like nowhere else in the world and the fact that we have the most 24-hour teh tarik outlets, too.

It is time that the authorities review this unfettered freedom given to just about anyone to operate round-the-clock kiosks that can only lead to more unhealthy Malaysians.

Today happens to be my birthday and I wish a very Happy Birthday to all readers sharing the same birthday and Selamat Hari Raya to those celebrating the festival.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com