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Urgent need to enhance patient safety

  • The government has an irrefutable obligation to provide adequate quality medical facilities to the people instead of counting on private institutions to fill the shortfall. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

The fire at Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in JB Tuesday morning claimed the lives of six and injured 11 others, including patients and hospital staff. We convey our deepest condolences to the victims' families and hope the injured victims will recover soon.

Faulty wiring is said to be the cause of the tragedy although this can only be confirmed upon further investigation by the police and fire & rescue department. Before the official report is released, it is hoped that members of the public will refrain from spreading presumptive or unverified information.

Built in 1968, HSA was the first government hospital to have an ICU ward. The subsequent ICU wards at government hospitals have been designed largely based on the HSA model.

It is learned that the health ministry indeed has plans to upgrade HSA as the hospital is quite old now and is in urgent need for a major upgrading in order to reinforce its medical and safety equipment to serve the public better.

All hospitals are equipped with their individual safety inspection mechanisms, and the health ministry has also set up special squads to conduct safety checks. However, given the fact that there are some 145 government hospitals in the country, the public are curious how the government is going to arrange for safety inspection of all these hospitals, and how long it will take for a particular hospital to be inspected. We are also keen to find out when a safety inspection was conducted on HSA and when the last fire drill was held.

It is imperative that the health ministry submit a relevant report to the Parliament. We really hope that after this weeks' incident, the health ministry and other major government and private hospitals will give more emphasis on the safety aspects. Medical devices and equipment need to be properly maintained for safety sake. Being physically compromised, patients need even more safety protection in the event of any untoward incident.

That said, the HSA medical personnel have displayed a very high degree of professionalism in the aftermath of the fire. The entire evacuation procedure has been carried out systematically, and the entire hospital staff have devoted itself to assist the patients.

The professionalism of the fire & rescue dept personnel also deserve our thumbs-up. In addition, members of the public have also joined in to offer a helping hand in the evacuation of affected patients. Many local organizations and members of the public have also donated food and drinking water in a miraculous display of selflessness.

We need to highlight here that HSA wards are already overcrowded, and this could have been the common problem encountered by many of our government hospitals. It is high time for the government to increase allocations in a bid to improve the public health service standard.

Areas surrounding Johor Bahru are experiencing unprecedented development and it is anticipated that more people will flock into the city in the future, putting a whole lot pressure on the local healthcare industry. The existing three government hospitals there may not be able to cope with the boom, and the health ministry should perhaps consider building new hospitals in Iskandar Malaysia and other JB suburbs to meet the explosive demands.

The government has an irrefutable obligation to provide adequate quality medical facilities to the people instead of counting on private institutions to fill the shortfall.

The BR1M aside, perhaps the government should also put more resources on public health facilities in order to take care of the well-being of the low and medium-income groups.


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