Friday, 13 July 2018

(The Star) Plans for better healthcare in Penang

State exco member for Health, Agriculture, Agro-based Industry and Rural Development Dr Afif Bahardin foresees bigger changes for Penang and for him, the future lies in Seberang Prai.

Among the plans in his purview is a new hospital for Batu Kawan to cater to southern Penang and northern Perak.

Currently, the nearest hospital there is a small one in Sungai Bakap.

“We still have time because the township is just coming up.

“We have to consider this because of the rise in residential and commercial projects there. The state government has earmarked the land,” he said in an interview in Komtar recently.

He said Penang Hospital was the referral centre for the northern region due to its high number of specialists while Seberang Jaya Hospital has a “tremendously high number of patients”, creating the need for a new and larger mainland hospital.

As for Balik Pulau, he said having a new hospital there was not necessary at the moment.

He reasoned that people in Balik Pulau tended to go to Penang Hospital for treatment, a journey not considered too far.

Also, he said the occupancy rate at Balik Pulau Hospital was lower compared with the rate at other hospitals.

“We are looking at ways to make it a more specialised hospital with paediatric care, rehabilitation and a new emergency department,” he said.

Dr Afif also has his sights set on making public places in Penang fully smoke-free, which would be a first in Malaysia.

“This will be a game changer in preparing Penang to become an international city.

“For a policy to be fully efficient, it has to be implemented throughout the state, not just within a certain area.

“We hope other states in Malaysia will pick up this smoke-free initiative,” he said.

He said another aim was to reduce lifestyle diseases in Penang such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol through policy-making and awareness campaigns.

As for agriculture, Dr Afif is eager to develop Penang into a ‘seed hub’ for Malaysia, producing high quality seeds to increase yields nationwide.

“The challenge in Penang is the scarcity of farm land but we have established logistics services and research labs to become a seed hub,” he said, adding that a few companies had set up seed production in Penang.

He pointed out that Penang had the only commercial oyster hatchery in South-East Asia and more than 19 breeders of fish, prawns and shrimp, thus strengthening Penang’s potential to be a producer of agriculture seed and fry stock.