HC Deb 05 May 1955 vol 540 cc166-7W
Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the overcrowding and out-of-date conditions in most of the hospitals in the towns of Malaya; that no hospital is under construction at the present time in the Federation; and what steps are being taken to meet the medical and surgical needs of this country.

Mr. Hopkinson

, pursuant to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 30], supplied the following further information.

It is not considered that the hospitals in the Federation of Malaya are overcrowded. I am informed that in the 70 general and district hospitals the occupancy rates of beds were 79 per cent. over the whole Federation. The rates vary between States, the lowest being 65 per cent. in Penang and the highest 92 per cent. in Negri Sembilan.

I am advised that this is generally within the range thought desirable for general hospitals in Western countries and is sufficient to meet the immediate needs of Malaya. In the Federation as a whole there are 3.2 beds for each 1,000 persons—a high figure for a tropical country. Since, however, the population of the Federation is rapidly increasing the medical services will have to be considerably extended. The Government of the Federation are well aware of this.

It is unfortunately true that a number of hospitals in Malaya are out of date. Many of the smaller hospitals were built 50 or more years ago. Partly as a result of the financial stringency imposed by the Emergency, it has often been thought preferable to try to renovate an old hospital rather than build a completely new one. In spite of the Emergency public expenditure on health services increased from $4 per head in 1947 to $9 per head in 1954.

Three of the largest hospitals in Malaya are good examples of up-to-date hospitals housed in modern buildings; and proposals are in hand for the reconstruction of four other large hospitals on modern lines. It is also proposed to build a new 500 to 600 bed Federal hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

The only hospital under construction at present in the Federation is the Lady Templer Hospital for Tuberculosis in Kuala Lumpur. This, though not a Government hospital, will be the most up-to-date of its kind and comparable with high standards elsewhere in the world. It is nearing completion.

A small new hospital of 24 beds was recently completed at Besut in Treng-ganu; and a large number of other hospitals have recently had extensions built. Besides this, many hospitals have recently had their laundries and kitchens modernised, and the majority have undergone general improvement of one sort or another. I am satisfied that in this respect steady progress has been made and will continue to be made, subject always to the financial limitations of the country.

Other steps now being taken to meet the medical and surgical needs of Malaya include the establishment of rural health centres throughout the country, a rapid increase in the number of rural midwives, a larger increase in the specialist facilities available in the larger hospitals, and the construction of a large new hostel for the accommodation of nurses in training.