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Impian Health Camp in Sibu & Sarikei

Doctors and Volunteers Display Selfless Service in Makeshift Medical Camp

Power outage and sweltering longhouse heat are unlike the average operating environment for healthcare professionals in the city. Yet for a group of medical doctors, nurses and pharmacists, they found themselves up against such circumstances during the 5th health camp organised by Impian Sarawak from Oct 13 to 17 in the underserved interiors of Sibu and Sarikei.

But these drawbacks coupled with makeshift conditions did little to dent the working spirit of the 13, who not only adjusted quickly to the shortcomings but displayed exemplary professionalism in treating close to 550 patients in some of these more medically-deprived areas of Sarawak, besieged by woeful and poor state of healthcare. Also rising to the occasion were 7 Impian volunteers who lent support in ensuring the camp’s smooth running over the long working hours. The oldest volunteer happened to be a 73-year-old, underscoring the very fact that age is no barrier, or is of little consequence, when it comes having a heart for volunteering duties.

The strong medical force consisted of 6 doctors (3 general practitioners, 1 paediatrician, 1 eye specialist and 1 dentist), 2 pharmacists, 3 nurses and 2 medical students who assisted with the BMI & Gluco-test stations.

During the 3 primary days of the camp, the team put up mobile bases in 3 main locations - Durin bazaar in Durin, Sibu; as well as Rumah Linga in Selangan and Rumah Tom in Sg Paoh, both located in Sarikei. (The word ‘rumah’ denotes a wooden longhouse, the name of which takes after the current headman who is called the tuai rumah). Partnering Impian for this project was the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia.

Villagers made a beeline particularly for the dentist and eye specialist throughout the entire camp period. The paediatrician was not to be outdone, being extremely popular among families with young kids in tow who visited Rumah Linga on the second day. Some 143 teeth extractions were performed upon the total number of 549 patients who turned up (203 in Durin, 243 at Rumah Linga and 103 at Rumah Tom).

A free mobile clinic service as this means a lot to these patients whose lowly income as farmers or even labourers meant that they would rather leave their health problems on the backburner, preferring to concentrate on their day job to put food on the table for the family. Compounding their deteriorating health is a critical lack of public awareness by the health authorities, while public healthcare institutions are so often stashed away in towns that rural folks and the destitute would face a journey of hardship just to acquire better treatment options that only the bigger hospitals can provide.

The consequence has thus been nothing short of alarming – patients in their 30s coming in with cataract, or with teeth so rotten it had to be immediately extracted, simply because they hadn’t the means to seek early intervention that could have prevented any worsening of condition. It’s a real shame that their health has to be compromised due to inaccessible healthcare or a system that has largely marginalised their needs for far too long – while Impian’s camp, though seemingly a three-day solution, crucially reaches out to villagers who require urgent and the most medical attention, without the travelling inconveniences.

Local representatives who dropped by the camp include Lanang Member of Parliament YB Alice Lau and Sarikei Member of Parliament YB Andrew Wong, both of whom too helped with ground coordination works, as well as Dudong state assemblyman YB Yap Hoi Liong and Pelawan state assemblyman cum DAP Sarawak vice-chairman YB David Wong.