The announcement of Malaysia’s 2021 Budget took a turn for the worst when allocation for the Ministry of Health received only a mediocre increment of four per cent despite the country’s need to step up on its efforts to curb COVID-19.
Since March 2020, mental health has become a regular issue as the pandemic continues to put pressure on the country’s economy and its people.
In the 2021 Budget tabled by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz on Saturday, 7 November 2020, the government has said that it allocate RM24 million to enhance programmes to address mental health issues, violence and abuse prevention; and substance abuse.
He also mentioned that the Health Ministry’s Psychosocial helpline has received over 35,000 phone calls from distraught people between March and October, and among the callers were those who suffered from depression, anxiety and stress.
However, Malay Mail reported that funds for frontliners, medicine and supplies for lifestyle diseases such as diabetes was reduced by 20.5 per cent, leaving only RM11.3 billion in the medical budget for public hospitals and clinics next year, which is a decline compared to the RM14.2 billion it received in the 2020 Budget.
CodeBlue dived deeper into the report and also saw reduction in nephrology (-77.61%), pharmacy and supplies (-73.58%), cardiothoracic (-66.70%), radiotherapy and oncology (-58.49%), general medicine (-14.28%), anesthesiology and intensive care (-10.03%), respiratory medicine (-10.46%) and psychiatry and mental health (-9.11%).
As the country continues to combat the surging COVID-19 cases nationwide as well as the extension of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) to every state across Peninsular Malaysia (except for Perlis, Pahang and Kelantan), the reduction in mental health budget and other intensive care medical needs can seriously hamper the recovery post COVID-19.