PETALING JAYA: As the country remains pre-occupied with the fight against Covid-19, treatment for patients with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has taken a back seat, raising concerns that it will lead to long-term health problems.
A way must be found quickly to ensure that treatment for patients with NCDs such as heart ailments or diabetes is not delayed, medical experts told theSun.
Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said NCD patients must never have their elective surgery or any other treatment delayed.
“The longer it takes to treat a patient, the more the patient will struggle and the outcome may not be so good,” he said.
He said a proposal to refer NCD cases to private hospitals is viable but only in urban centres.
“Private hospitals are mostly in or around big towns and they have limited capacities. Most have only 100 to 300 beds,” he said.
That, he added, would make them inaccessible to those living in rural or remote areas.
Lee said the realignment of resources to fight the Covid-19 war has also left other units at hospitals under staffed.
“The cardiac unit in at least one public hospital in the Klang Valley is already taking the hit (from this realignment),” he claimed.
“Some of its doctors and other healthcare professionals are in isolation because of Covid-19,” he said.
“We cannot continue to go down this road as healthcare across the board will suffer and lives will be at risk,” Lee added.
He said a way out is to step up testing and contact tracing, which must be done within 48 hours after a positive case is identified.
“People should also not assume that the vaccine will work immediately. It may take up to two years before it becomes effective,” he added.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Prof Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam said the management of NCDs such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease requires regular monitoring to ensure it does not worsen to a point where there is a need for emergency procedures and hospital admission.
“With proper management of NCDs, the need for hospitalisation can be reduced,” he told theSun.
The MMA has proposed that the government outsourced the management of NCD cases to the 7,000 Health Ministry-trained general practitioners (GPs) in the country.
He said monitoring for diabetes mellitus, hypertension and even heart disease should be outsourced to GPs as they would be closer to the community and easier to access while cancer treatment and certain elective surgeries can be outsourced to the private hospitals.
He said through such an arrangement, the wait time for appointments as normally experienced (at public hospitals) can be reduced.
“In areas that lack major government hospitals, monitoring by private GPs will be important.
“There is evidence that better outcomes can be achieved through regular monitoring of NCDs at the primary care level,” he said.
He said the government should also outsource cancer treatment and certain elective surgeries to private hospitals.
Subramaniam said the main NCDs in this country are diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease, with 1.7 million people in Malaysia living with three major risk factors: diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
He said 3.9 million Malaysians aged 18 and above suffer from diabetes, 6.4 million people have hypertension, while eight million adults in Malaysia have raised total cholesterol levels.
He added that data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia singles out heart diseases as the principal cause of death.
He said data in the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report shows that a total of 115,238 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Malaysia from 2012 to 2016.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer, followed by colorectal and lung cancers.