Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Health minister brushes off queries on shabby Lahad Datu hospital

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam today brushed aside questions about poor facilities at the Lahad Datu hospital in Sabah which have hampered treatment for life-threatening cases and surgeries, saying he would only speak on the matter when visiting the state.
"When I go to Kota Kinabalu you can ask me about Sabah hospitals," he said today in response to a report by The Malaysian Insider on December 17 about problems faced at the government district hospital in the eastern district of Sabah.
A major problem at the hospital was its faulty air-conditioning system which prevented surgeries from being conducted. Repairs to the system required operating theatres to be sterilised for days before they could be used.
A source at the Sabah Medical Department had told The Malaysian Insider that the hospital was well-equipped for a period to handle cases during the incursion by armed Suluk militants on Sabah's east coast in February last year.
High-tech medical equipment such as a computerised tomography or CT scan as well as top-notch surgeons, had also been posted there to handle battlefield casualties from the incursion.
However, in just over a year, the hospital has slid back to the state in which it was before the conflict, facing problems like frequent air-conditioning system breakdowns that have rendered two of the three operating theatres (OTs) unusable for the most part of the last three years.
The degree of neglect prevented it from handling simultaneous cases if they were life-threatening and required immediate surgery. The situation had also stopped plans by a charity organisation to provide surgery for 14 children with cleft lips. This was confirmed to The Malaysian Insider by plastic surgeon Dr Margaret Leow of the Universiti Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
The Tawau and Sandakan hospitals were also reportedly in a similar predicament as the Lahad Datu hospital.
Dr Subramaniam was on a working visit to the Penang Hospital today, where he proposed to the state health director and hospital director that outpatient services be relocated to another venue to ease congestion.
"If you have 1,000 outpatients daily, you get 2,000 to 3,000 people, such as the patients' family members coming to the hospital, that creates congestion and problems like insufficient parking spaces.
"If the outpatient services can be moved outside the hospital to a location that is nearer to patients, it could be more convenient for the people as well," he told a press conference during his visit to the hospital.
Dr Subramanian also proposed that the hospital look into setting up a standalone low-risk maternity centre for high-risk and high dependency cases, as well as a cardiology lab.
The ministry also has plans to integrate all government hospitals in Penang to distribute the workload by sharing manpower and resources, including specialists.
Construction of a new maternity and paediatrics hospital on Jalan Residensi near the Penang Hospital is also expected to begin in 2016.
The existing maternity hospital, which is in a 125-year-old building that will be demolished, had been emptied earlier this month and temporarily moved to different sections within the main hospital, he said.
"The old building was declared unsafe so we have no choice but to move. Maternity cases will be handled at the main hospital for the next four to five years.
"The new hospital, which will be built on the same site, has been approved and is now in planning stage. It will take three to four years to complete. We hope it will be ready by 2020," he said.
He added that the new building would add another 329 beds to the hospital and handle all future paediatric cases when it was ready. – December 22, 2014.

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