Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia with a population of about 3 million. It lies on the island of Borneo and has a mainly rural population with a few urban centres with Kuching as its capital. Palliative Care is likely to only be accessible to a very small proportion of the population although the estimate for Malaysia as a whole is about 10%.
Representatives of the palliative care community in Sarawak had applied for the state to be considered for the Lien Collaborative project was made in early 2022.
A team comprising of Dr Ednin Hamzah (Chair, APHN), Assoc Prof Ghauri Aggarwal (Vice-Chair, APHN), Dr Jan Maree Davis (Member, APHN) and Mr Lee Poh Wah (CEO, Lien Foundation) visited several sites in Kuching as well as held meetings with key stakeholders over the period of the visit in August 2022. The stakeholders include the Deputy Premier of Sarawak, Director of Sarawak General Hospital, Director of Sibu Hospital, Director of Two Tree Lodge Hospice and CEO of Kuching Life Care.
In all settings, there was clear enthusiasm for the development of palliative care in Sarawak. Sarawak General Hospital has been identified as a training site and many healthcare workers seem able to communicate in English as well as their local languages.
Key to successful participation in the Lien Collaborative are political support, access to medicines, support for multi-sector education and service development. Generally, all of these were present at different levels. Some of the weaknesses have been identified and it is hoped that a state task force in palliative care will discuss and address these in the coming months. The proposed scope of training under the Lien Collaborative would need to be deliberated further so that the best outcomes could be achieved.
Written by Dr Ednin Hamzah (Chair, APHN)