Sebangan – The overall state of healthcare in Sarawak cranked up a notch on Sunday when the Sarawak State Secretary, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad Morshidi bin Abdul Ghani, launched the Rural ICT Guided Home-Based Technoprenuer Community Healthcare Advancement Nurturing for Growth Ecosystem (RiGHT CHANGE) programme for rural healthcare at the RiGHT Centre in Kampung Menek, Sebangan.
According to the State Secretary in his launching speech, the programme will allow residents in the rural areas to more easily access healthcare services and obtain expert medical advice from panel doctors through the use of online technology and portable medical testing equipment.
The programme, which was developed by Sarawak Information Systems (SAINS), a wholly Sarawak Government owned company, as part of its corporate social responsibility activities, seeks to fill the gap in healthcare services in rural Sarawak through the innovative use of new and established technologies.
The programme is an extension of SAINS’ well established RiGHT programme which takes rural youths and provides them with 6 months of intensive ICT training before sending them back to their communities to provide ICT services to their local communities through RiGHT Centres which they establish with support from SAINS.
Through the programme, SAINS’ RiGHT alumni will monitor the health of participants within their communities through the use of portable medical devices and regular health screenings. The information gathered from these is then sent to a medical panel of doctors which include volunteer doctors from various NGOs such as Diabetes Malaysia, Sarawak Branch, Sarawak Thalassaemia Society, Malaysian Society of Nephrology (Sarawak), Sarawak Heart Foundation and Sarawak Society for the Blind as well as SAINS’ own in-house doctor.
RiGHT CHANGE capitalises on the Sarawak Government’s extensive intranet infrastructure, SarawakNet, and its in-house developed Integrated Healthcare Solutions, currently being used in several hospitals, to deliver participant’s information to the doctors who will then be able to access the information online. The setup also allows doctors to hold consultation sessions with the participants through videoconferencing if necessary. With the information gathered by the RIGHT alumni as well as the videoconferencing sessions, the doctors are able to make recommendations for the participants or write a referral for follow up visits to clinics or hospitals if necessary, almost instantly. This is in stark opposition to the current system where villagers might need to travel several hours to the nearest healthcare facility and might need to wait days or weeks for the results of their examinations.
Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad Morshidi added that he hoped that residents from all over rural Sarawak would be able to take advantage of the programme to go for regular check-ups to identify chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity early to improve and maintain their health.
He also revealed that in addition to RiGHT CHANGE, the RiGHT centres also provided ICT services for the rural community such as computer repair, computer classes, cyber cafe and other e-services.
In the long run, it is estimated that RiGHT CHANGE will be able to benefit over 1 million people in rural Sarawak and save the government millions of ringgit each year by catching potential sufferers of chronic diseases early as the largest and fastest growing cost of healthcare is the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Another benefit of the programme is the ease and low cost of setup and maintenance, which is much cheaper than that of a government rural health centre. It is envisioned that this programme can be further implemented in other rural areas where government health centres are not available.
Currently, RiGHT CHANGE has been implemented in three sites at Sebangan, Singai and Debak involving a total of 20 villages. The program will be extended to four more sites this year.