GDM, UNHCR to offer free healthcare consultancy for refugees

The services will include the cost of consultations, diagnostic and imaging services, excluding pharmaceutical and laboratory services


GLOBAL Doctors Malaysia (GDM) has launched a Medical Care Centre in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide healthcare assistance for asylum- seekers and refugees in the country.

The centre, which is located at the Global Doctors International Medical Clinic in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, will begin operations on March 9, 2020.

It will provide free primary healthcare consultancy services for refugees including the cost of consultations, diagnostic and imaging services (radiological: X-rays, CT scans and mammograms), excluding pharmaceutical and laboratory services.

“Non-governmental organisation clinics requiring diagnostic services will also be able to make referrals here, enabling access to free X-rays and scans which will otherwise be costly for refugees in public health facilities,” UNHCR representative to Malaysia Thomas Albrecht said after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing between both parties yesterday.

The initiative will reach out to almost 10,000 refugees around the Mont Kiara area, extending to Kepong and Segambut.

There are some 180,000 refugees registered with UNHCR today, the majority of whom are from Myanmar, Albrecht said.

Despite having access to public and private healthcare facilities in Malaysia, factors such as cost, fear of movement and language limitations prohibit their access to healthcare services, he added.

“The involvement of the private sector in helping refugees realise their right to health is very much welcome and speaks to the Global Compact of Refugees, which Malaysia is part of,” Albrecht stated.

Partnerships with private healthcare providers like GDM are an example of private sector involvement in reducing the burden on the public healthcare system, while ensuring that marginalised communities receive the healthcare they need, he added.

According to GDM managing and medical director Dr Navindra Nageswaran, medical costs for patients are usually incurred during the initial stage of diagnosis, which limits the possibilities for refugees to seek further medical help.

Early diagnosis is encouraged and GDM aims to make it accessible for refugees, he said.

“If everybody supports it then you would have a larger pool of diagnostic centres and that will make a difference,” he said.

Refugees also suffer from psychological problems due to the changes in environment that they have to face throughout their lives, Global Doctors Hospital (GDH) consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran noted.

Although most of the cases are transient in nature, he said the problem can lead to chronic situations if they are not looked into.

“Refugees’ mental health should not be overlooked. All over the world, it is shown that certain psychological conditions like depression and anxiety can also result in substance abuse and self-harm and this seems to be higher in the refugee cohort compared to other populations,” he said.

The medical care centre will be open from Monday to Saturday from 4pm to 7pm, on an appointment basis.