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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shocking revelation of Sabah’s healthcare conditions

By Queville To

KOTA KINABALU: Several issues rippled through Parliament last week but none more painful to hear than a serving medical officer’s shocking revelation of the deplorable conditions in Sabah Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the ‘games’ ailing patients are made to play.

Midweek in Parliament saw DAP advisor Lim Kit Sang, brandishing a letter from a bitterly disappointed doctor from QEH, demanding that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak sack his health minister immediately and appoint a new one.

Shocked and outraged by the doctor’s claims, Lim said: “This is an utter shame for the prime minister's 1Malaysia and his pledge of “People First, Performance Now.

“Either Najib give Liow (Tiong Lai) 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 had said.

He said that Liow had been health minister for more than two years and despite repeated complaints, had turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the prolonged healthcare crisis and the deplorable hospital conditions in Sabah, particularly in Kota Kinabalu.

Lim said the doctor had sent an open letter to Liow describing in detail the deplorable conditions of the hospital complexes in Sabah, particularly the QEH which the doctor likened to Vietnam refugee camp.

He said the doctor wrote of the horrors suffered by the sick in Kota Kinabalu where they are subjected to “a wicked game of musical chairs” and 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”.

Endless horror stories

The medical maze, which has brought total chaos to healthcare services in Sabah, includes the state’s only referral centre, QEH, and nearby centres like Hospital Bukit Padang, Hospital Likas, the makeshift hospital in Lingzhi Museum in Kepayang and Umno’s favourite Sabah Medical Centre (SMC).

According to the whistle-blower, the list of horror stories were endless, but he cited a few examples:
  • lady in labour is told that she can’t give birth in QEH, while a patient suffering an epileptic fit is whisked away from Likas Hospital to QEH;
  • child with a broken limb may go to SMC but the surgery can only be done in Likas Hospital;
  • 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 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, and hospital-acquired infections are the norm rather the exception, as when a patient with tuberculosis coughs his lungs out, everyone in the ward will be inhaling the highly infectious Mycobacterium.
The whistle-blower even claimed that patients have died due to the lack of emergency equipment and the deficient setup at the peripheral wards.

Medical personnel too are suffering in silence, added the whistle-blower, claiming that doctors from house officers to specialists are shuttling between the five medical centres daily, wasting precious time, fuel and energy in the process of doing their job.

Medical officers have been doing eight to fifteen calls every month as a result of the increased locations housing the sick.

On QEH, the only tertiary referral centre in Sabah, the whistleblower noted that the hospital which was partially shutdown since September 2008 has turned critical recently, with worsening cracks and falling tiles and a pose real threat of collapse.

The whistleblower also claimed that the general public was not fully aware of the seriousness of the healthcare crisis facing the state, as it has been covered up by the State Health Department all these while.


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