Does any real healing take place in a Malaysian government hospital? does it? really? if you are one of the lucky few who has had the good fortune of being well taken care of in one of these hospitals - you rank in the minority and should consider yourself darn lucky.
The following cases of negligence at public hospitals which was splashed across the press, generated tonnes of negative publicity for the hospitals concerned and resulted in civil suits.
- The case of baby Lai Yok Shan who lost her left forearm because of negligence by doctors at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang. Her parents have since filed an RM2 million suit against the government.
- Fourty nine days after undergoing a hysterectomy surgery, private hospital nurse Kalaiyarasi Perumal discovered that a pair of forceps had been left in her stomach by the surgical team at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.
- Former Quran teacher Bashah Mustaffa sued the government over the HIV-contaminated blood she received during a transfusion at the Jitra Hospital.
- Rozita Haron@ Choo Kim Koon claimed RM250,000 against the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru for negligence after its staff left a needle in her vagina during delivery in 1995.
- The parents of V.Monishaa, 15, alleged that the negligent attitude of two medical officers at the Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital resulted in the death of their daughter from meningitis sepsis.
That which I have listed above is a mere five, but there are more, lots more. If I had taken the trouble to Google it all up, this post would have to be written as part one and two!
Various excuses have been given on the part of hospital authorities and the government - doctors make mistakes too, the hospitals are overcrowded and the staff overworked and so on and so forth. We have also been constantly reassured via stories in the media that the government is building more hospitals, getting more equipment, recruiting more staff, hiring foreign doctors etc.
But has anyone read stories in the press that the Health Minister or the government has vowed to kick someone's ass or let heads roll the next time they hear of a negligence of gargantuan proportions at public hospitals? instead of forming lame ass committees to investigate what happened each time something goes terribly wrong? obviously NO. If they did, perhaps the staff at these hospitals, at whatever level they function, would take their jobs more seriously.
Being overworked is not a good excuse. People in other professions are overworked too, can they use that as a reason to deliver substandard work? well if you work in the private sector, you would be slapped with a memo, demoted, suspended or worse still fired for not performing up to par.
Yup I know it's the norm that not much can be expected from government departments and agencies. But when it comes to the health care sector its high time the powers that be, brandished the whip.
When you're dealing with people's lives there is no room for being lax. In my opinion the cases of negligence mentioned above, plus the ones that have gone unreported is all a result of the ATTITUDE of the staff at these hospitals. If they were good at what they did, and if they CARED, the poor patients under their care, would have fared better.
Our government can build top-notch hospitals with impressive new facilities, but if the medical personnel at these hospitals work like robots, don't think outside the box and don't give two hoots about doing a good job, more people will stand to lose their limbs, be wrongly diagnosed, find foreign objects in their internal organs and die - as has happened a fair bit.
A case in point is the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru. Spanking new premises, supposedly has top-notch equipment etc. However based on general feedback and a rather sour experience of my brother's, it's worse than the Sultanah Aminah Hospital which itself has garnered quite a reputation in the sphere of medical negligence.
In the case of my brother and his friend who were involved in a car accident, they were made to wait for over an hour, despite groaning in pain ( my brother fractured two fingers while his friend had a shoulder injury). People who had come in with tummy aches and such were ushered in to see the doctor first. Considering it was the Accident & Emergency Department, should accident patients not be given priority?
When my mum asked if the boys could see the doctor soon considering their state of pain, she was told that as they could still walk they were obviously not badly hurt and could afford to wait. Do they not know that there have been people out there who have gotten up and walked after being involved in an accident, only to die a few days later because of internal bleeding?
Another thing that riled my mum was the red tape involved. My brother had a ring on one of his fractured fingers which had swelled up. He wanted the ring removed as it was painful. But guess what the medical officer said? She said they did not have the equipment to remove the ring, and thus on Monday ( my brother was at the hospital on Saturday night) they would write to the operating theater to borrow the equipment, and if permission was granted, then the ring could be removed. So brand new government specialist hospital does not have a set of pliers to remove a ring??
After an hour of extreme irritation, and after being told that his friend was fine enough to go home despite the sharp pain in his shoulder, my brother decided that seeing the doctor there would serve no purpose and decided to go to the Johor Specialist Centre. Upon arrival there, his ring was immediately removed, and after prompt treatment, they were warded.
The following day, they underwent surgery (my brother for his finger fractures, and his friend for his dislocated shoulder). The bill was certainly not cheap, but they are on the mend. They are the lucky ones who don't have to put up with poor treatment at public hospitals. But not everyone has options, it's those who are not financially able who usually become the victims of negligence at government hospitals.
Free service does not = poor service. All because it's cheap and free does not mean the rakyat has to put up with whatever government hospital staff choose to dish out. Call me cynical, but I doubt the current malaise that plagues our public health care system will be solved in the near future. The government can announce and announce of this measure and that measure. But in the end it will still not improve.
So what do we do? invest in insurance, get a medical card at the very least. Invest in your health and safety, because our government is not going to do that for you.