Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Wednesday, 24th March 2010:
Najib should give Liow Tiong Lai an ultimatum to resolve the Sabah health crisis where hospitals in Kota Kinabalu have been compared to Vietnam refugee camps or he should sack Liow and appoint new Health Minister
I am shocked and outraged by a letter I have received from a serving medical officer of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu about the deplorable conditions of the hospital complexes in Sabah particularly Kota Kinabalu which had been likened to Vietnam refugee camp.
Liow had been Health Minister for more than two years and despite repeated complaints, he had turned a complete deaf ear and blind eye to the prolonged healthcare crisis and the deplorable hospital conditions in Sabah particularly in Kota Kinabalu.
The serving doctor in QEH wrote of the horrors suffered by the sick in Kota Kinabalu where they are subjected to "a wicked game of musical chairs" shunted around various hospital centres according to their changing healthcare needs as "there is not a single centre that can address a patient as a whole".
The medical maze, which has brought total chaos to healthcare services in Sabah, includes the state's only referral centre, Queen Elizabeth Hosptal and nearby centres like Hospital Bukit Padang the mental institution, Hospital Likas, the makeshift hospital in Lingzhi Museum in Kepayang and Umno's favourite Sabah Medical Centre (SMC).
This is the tale of horror as narrated by this QE doctor:
"Mr. Wong, an elderly man presented at Hospital Likas because of severe breathlessness and was found to have severe pneumonia on chest x-ray.
"He was then admitted to the High Dependency Unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) 30 minutes away for treatment.
"He improved after six days and was then transferred to the normal ward for further recuperation.
"A bed was urgently needed one day later and the frail Mr. Wong was then shipped off to Hospital Bukit Padang for 'rehabilitation'.
"Alas, he did not improve but instead deteriorated.
"As Hospital Bukit Padang was devoid of the necessary equipment and setup for managing emergencies and ill patients, Mr. Wong was then resent back to QEH for further management.
"More tests were required and old Wong was then sent to Sabah Medical Center for a CT scan.
"I'm not sure what happened to Mr. Wong thereafter."
The QEH doctor who made these revelations of the deplorable health crisis in Sabah in the form of an Open Letter to Liow Tiong Lai, wrote:
The formation of the Queen- SMC-Likas-Lingzhi-BukitPadang medical maze has brought total chaos to healthcare services in Sabah.
The docile and unassuming Sabahan patients are constantly playing a wicked game of musical chairs, being transported around from one hospital to another according to their changing healthcare needs.
There is not one single center that can address a patient as a whole.
A lady in labor will be told that she can't do so in QEH, while a fitting patient are whisked away from Likas to QEH.
A child with a broken limb may go to SMC but the surgery can only be done in Likas.
Elderly Mr. Wong is merely one of many such victims.
Continuity of care is virtually impossible when patients are moved about every few days.
Valuable investigations and data are lost in the process of multiple transfers resulting in costly, repeated tests.
Patients have even died due to the lack of emergency equipment and the deficient setup at the peripheral wards.
You will not hear all these because your little pharaohs in the state health department have done a great job concealing negligence, mismanagement and sheer stupidity.
Medical personnel are suffering in silence too.
Doctors from house officers to specialists are rushing around the five medical centers daily, wasting precious time, fuel and energy in the process of doing so.
Medical officers have been doing eight to fifteen on-calls every month as a result of the increased locations housing the sick.
That is fifteen days away from home and family every month, mind you.
Just in case you forgot we too have young, growing kids to care for.
Absent parents do not make for good family dynamics, won't you agree?
We are risking our lives each working day wondering if the abandoned tower block will one day collapse upon us and send us to our Maker.
Our comrades serving in Sabah Medical Center are not having it any better.
In spite of the Barisan Nasional's grandiose publicity buzz over the RM 245 million purchase of Sabah Medical Center, the medical personnel and patients have remained mere squatters in the premises.
The medical staffs are receiving summonses so very too often as a result of limited parking space.
Those of us in surgical disciplines are working till 9 pm on Mondays to Fridays so as to optimize the operating time of our three miserable rented surgical theatres.
In the SMC wards, 4-5 patients are cramped into rooms meant for two as the hospital was built to house a capacity of 150 beds only.
On QEH, the only tertiary referral centre in Sabah, the QEH doctor has this to say:
Increasingly, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the only tertiary referral center in Sabah is living up her grand title of being a sick house.
Partially shut down since September 2008, the ailing sick house of Sabah has turned critical recently, with worsening cracks and falling tiles and a real threat of frank collapse.
The older blocks nearby were declared unsafe and subsequently evacuated and shut down.
Ill and frail patients were shipped off in a frenzy like unwanted cargo to nearby centers like Hospital Bukit Padang the mental institution, Hospital Likas, and the makeshift hospital of Lingzhi Museum in Kepayan and of course, UMNO's favourite Sabah Medical Center (SMC).
The QEH doctor said he and his colleagues invite Liow "to come and see the ground situation for yourself without a grand entourage of administrative boot-lickers".
"Patients who require hospital admission have to be turned away due to the insufficiency of places.
"The inpatients meanwhile are packed like sardines in the current wards, with hardly a metre of space between beds.
"The situation is comparable to a Vietnamese refugee camp.
"Hospital-acquired infections are the norm rather the exception.
"When a patient with tuberculosis coughs his lungs out, everyone in the ward will be inhaling the highly infectious Mycobacterium.
"After 50 years of independence, our ill patients who require close observation are still sharing monitors and other equipment between themselves.
"Is this the standard of care that Barisan Nasional is according to Najib's self-proclaimed fixed deposit?
"Whatever happened to all the oil money that Sabah has generated for Tanah Melayu over the last 50 years?
"So you see, Mr Health Minister, we don't need more jobless house officers, more empty promises and more tasty slogans like 1Malaysia.
"We need 1Hospital and 1HealthMinister who is attuned to the sufferings of the rakyat under his care."
This is an utter shame for the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's 1Malaysia and his pledge of "People First, Performance Now: I will send the QEH doctor's indictment of the healthcare system and the Health Minister 's failure and negligence to the Prime Minister, who should table it on Friday's cabinet meeting as an example of failed Minister in his Cabinet.
Either Najib give Liow an ultimatum to immediately resolve the deplorable healthcare crisis in Sabah or Najib should make an example of Liow by sacking him and appoint a new Health Minister for the country.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor