KUALA LUMPUR: Fifty-six years after gaining independence from Great Britain, Malaysia has seen tremendous development and progress in every field including education, industrial, agriculture, petrochemical and healthcare.
When it comes to infrastructure, as an independent nation, Malaysia can plan and construct huge infrastructural projects to meet the requirements of its people, such as highways and ultra-modern airports like the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
The world-famous skyscrapers, such as the Petronas Twin Towers at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), symbolize such progress.
Being an independent and sovereign nation has enabled Malaysia to lay stress on expansion and development of the nation's healthcare.
The government has initiated various measures to improve the public healthcare sector including refurbishing existing hospitals, building and equipping new hospitals as well as setting up more polyclinics.
Among the revolutionary innovations in the healthcare sector is the 1M (One Malaysia) Clinic, the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Najib wants to ensure that health services can be made accessible for all Malaysians, particularly those in the lower income group.
Najib is aware that the urban poor are unable to receive treatment offered by private clinics, either because such clinics are located too far from where they live or because their services are too expensive.
But now, more than five decades after gaining independence, the poor have a practical alternative.
The 1M Clinic is one of the initiatives under the 1Malaysia concept mooted by Najib.
What are these 1M clinics?
They are community clinics that are strategically located and remain open every day for 12 hours from 10am to 10pm.
These clinics, which are manned by nurses and medical assistants with at least five years’ experience each, provide quality treatment for only RM1 per person. Non-Malaysians have to pay RM15 per person.
The move to charge a flat fee of RM1 at these clinics is among the government's initiatives to ease the high cost of living for the people.
The first 1M Clinic was opened on Dec 28, 2009 in Lembah Pantai here.
According to the Health Ministry's statistics, there are now some 230 1M clinics nationwide, serving about 1.5 million people.
Last July, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam said 40 to 50 more 1M clinics will be set up nationwide next year onwards to meet the public demand, particularly in the rural areas.
He said the clinics would be concentrated in areas inhabited by a large number of people from the low-income group.
"It is a successful 1Malaysia product and can benefit the people by ensuring a good level of healthcare," he was reported as saying by the media at a recent function.
Dr Subramaniam said the Health Mibnistry will ensure that the best system of delivery and services are made accessible to the people as Malaysia's healthcare sector is acknowledged as being among the best in the world.
He also said that the ministry would try to deploy at least one doctor at each 1M Clinic while currently there are only 22 such clinics that have a doctor each.
Why do people visit these 1M clinics?
Civil servant Zaida Zainol has the answer.
"A relatively short waiting time, low and affordable consultation fee, a convenient location and friendly services are among reasons why the 1M clinics are well received by the Malaysians.
"The 1M Clinic has provided a relief from the increasing cost of living," she added.
Zaida, 40, from Bandar Tasek Puteri near here, described the clinics as the government's best initiative in providing essential healthcare for its people.
Her neighbour, housewife Mariam Abdullah said the clinic is a convenience for the Malaysians in terms of the RM1 fee and their convenient location.
Both of them regularly visit the 1M Clinic located at the Bandar Country Homes in their neighbourhood.
Trader Zakierin Abdullah said the clinic is open even during the public holidays.
"The clinic services all Malaysians charging a fee of only RM1. This includes treatment for cough, cold, fever, small injuries and follow-ups for diabetes and hypertension," he said.
He said the opening hours – 10am to 10pm – are also convenient for the working people.
Zakierin said treatment and medicines at private clinics may cost up to RM50 for each visit.
"The medication provided is by no means inferior, notwithstanding the fact that only a miniscule fee of RM1 for registration is charged.
"1M Clinic is beneficial to the people, especially those from the lower income group," he added.
For social activist Amin Iskandar, being independent is something that each nation wants.
"The people, led by their leaders, can decide what is best for them. They can march forward towards further progress without being restrained by the colonialists.
"That is the glory of achieving Merdeka," he added. -- BERNAMA