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Friday, March 6, 2009

QE Hospital, Kota Kinabalu: Some unscrupulous people are profiteering?

I received in my Inbox a Letter addressed to the Federal Minister of Health with the message: “Pass this e mail to as many Sabahans that you know.” As an equally concerned citizen of Sabah, I append (to share with you) hereunder the text of the e-mail.

"Dear Health Minister
Ali, a 32-year-old road traffic accident victim, travelled three hours from a district in Sabah and arrived in Kota Kinabalu six hours after the initial trauma. After the initial assessment in the emergency department, a CT scan of the head and abdomen was ordered to exclude intracranial bleeding and intra abdominal injury.
He was whisked back onto an ambulance to the privately-owned Sabah Medical Center (SMC) for the required scans. After the ten-minute procedure, he was repacked into the ambulance back to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to undergo further assessment while awaiting the results of his blood tests and X-rays. His scans and X-rays were reviewed.
Ali was found to have a lacerated liver and a fractured long bone with multiple superficial wounds. He was then prepared for emergency surgery.
For that, the young man was then re-wheeled into the ambulance and headed once again to the SMC where the operating theatre and intensive care unit of QEH are currently housed. By the time surgery starts, it was already nine hours from the time of his motor vehicle accident.
My story hasn’t finished, Mr Minister.
One hour into the operation, our young chap bled tremendously that he required more blood products to sustain life. It would not be another hour or so before the blood products arrive from the blood bank of QEH to the SMC.
You see YB, blood has to be taken from the patient and passed to a house officer. The house officer will fill in the necessary forms and hand them over to an attendant. The attendant will wait for a chartered bus or ambulance to head back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or rather, what remains of it.
Back in QEH, the attendant will wait 45 minutes for the blood to be cross-matched and then wait a while more for the arrival of a chartered bus or ambulance to ferry him (or her) back to SMC.
Anyway, being a fit and healthy young man previously, Ali survived the operation. He was admitted to the ICU and needed a repeated chest X-ray.
For that, the radiography team in QEH is informed. The duo will then take the chartered bus or ambulance to SMC to perform the X-ray. Shooting an X-ray takes all but two minutes. Processing the cassette will take another five.
However, the processing is done back in the hospital and delivered by the next available ambulance back to SMC. By the time the X-ray films reach the patient, it could be anything from three to twelve hours later.
Dear Yang Berkhidmat (YB) Liow,
I hope you notice the unacceptable predicament our Sabahan patients (and medical staff) are facing currently. It is already six months since the initial and abrupt closure of Kota Kinabalu’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Since then, we have been without a proper operating theatre and intensive care unit.
We are also without distinctive wards for many of our surgical patients of most disciplines. Frankly speaking, the health crisis of the state of Sabah has run so deep and so far along that I do not where to begin.
I will instead serve an eye-opening fact to you, Mr. Liow. At the height of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) epidemic, the the communist government of the People’s Republic of China erected a 1,000-bed hospital within seven days.
Work on the Xiaotangshan Hospital started on April 24, 2003 and was completed on April 30, with 7,000 workers and 500 machines tirelessly on duty around the clock. Far from being a melamine-laced structure, the Xiaotangshan Hospital is equipped with the then state-of-the-art anti-infective measures and facilities.
The structure built within a week is still standing firm six years later today, ready to house any ill and potentially infective patient in the event of any unforeseen health crisis.
Mr Health Minister,
That is exactly what Sabahans are in right now – a health crisis. The Barisan Nasional government chants ‘Malaysia Boleh’ like some proverbial battle-cry but the Sabah state health crisis has proven that empty vessels make the most noise.
Unlike MCA members, not everyone enjoys being labelled a ‘squatter’. For six months, the medical staff and patients of Sabah have been housed in sections of the Sabah Medical Center paying a whooping rental of RM 90,000 per day.
For five months since our forced relocation into your prized SMC, we only had one operating room for life-threatening emergency cases. Elective surgeries were postponed indefinitely even those involving cancers and prostates and suspicious breast lumps.
We only restarted elective surgeries a month ago but even so, the backlog of cases is tremendous and catastrophic. I wonder Mr Minister, how would you like to have a tumour growing in your rectum with no avenue of getting it removed?
That is exactly what our poor Sabah folk are facing. They were without money and without a hospital to get operated in. In fact, they still don’t because they do not have a formal general hospital for Kota Kinabalu anymore.
Heck, we don’t even have our own CT scan. What we do have, however, is lots of bills to pay and debts to settle.
Is it true that the state department of health owes SMC a total of RM 6.1 million for CT scan services? Is it true that Hantaran Wira, the company contracted to provide transport to and fro SMC-QEH is paid RM500,000.00 per month?
Mr. Minister,
You owe the 3.4 million population of Sabah a lot of answers for wasted lives and needless deaths. Money cannot solve all problems in life. Thank you for listening."


I find the above letter very appalling, disturbing and incredulous in that, not only the life of the patient as described by the writer was at stake but also the exorbitant transportation fees charged by “Hantaran Wira”, let alone the "Sabah Medical Center (being paid) a whooping rental of RM 90,000 per day”.

If the Government decides to build the new Hospital now and its completion period is, say, 3 years, then SMC would have been paid a sum of RM9.855 million,  in rental alone, whilst the transportation fee between SMC-QEH would have amounted to RM1.5 million, thus totalling an astronomical sum of RM 11.355 million.

QE Hospital issue has appeared in public domain, and Chong Pit Fah, the SAPP Information Chief has recently highlighted this issue in the Malaysiakini and who also described Dr Abdul Latif’s statement that there is ‘no provision under the 9th Malaysia Plan’ as “a lame excuse and an insult to the people of Sabah”.

Chong also questioned why only the Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department “was assigned to liaise with the Federal Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai in addressing the QEH problem when in fact (we have) three senior ministers from Sabah namely Bernard Dompok (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department), Maximus Ongkili (Science, Technology and Innovation Minister) and Shafie Apdal (National Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister) sit in the Cabinet”.

I couldn't agree more with the contents of the letter to the Federal Minister of Health. The Federal Government must take the plights of the Sabahan seriously. Our Sabah leaders too should take up the matter to the Federal Government vigorously.

The statement (no budget) by the Deputy Health Minister recently does not seem to indicate any seriousness and urgency in mitigating the problem. We have been taken for granted all this while.

If what is mentioned in the letter is true, it appears that some people are profiting from the predicament of the Sabahans e.g. providing transportation to and from SMC at an exorbitant cost. 

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