Criminal negligence in the General Hospital Malacca caused multiple deaths

Press Conference Statement by Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr.Lim Kit Siang, in Melacca on 22.8.1973

Call for a public commission of inquiry into the gross criminal negligence in the General Hospital Malacca which has caused multiple deaths

I have called this press conference with sadness and anger to expose a black and heinous chapter in the administration of the Malacca General Hospital, and of the people of Malacca.

Between August 6 and 16, a period of some 10 days, the Malacca General Hospital became a death chamber. Unusual number of deaths occurred in maternity, surgical and even medical cases.

Routine cases of Caesarian operations, where deaths should not occur, ended up fatally.

Patients on the operating table collapsed one after another. Strong healthy men entered the hospital for routine operations, never recovered consciousness and died.

I do not know how many such unnecessary and unusual deaths occurred during this period, but it is somewhat in the region of 10 to 20, although from the accounts I have heard I am not surprised if it is more.

There is a high-level attempt to hush up this atrocious episode, but from doctors, nurses and hospital staff in Malacca General Hospital whose conscience do not allow them to keep quiet, and who yet bound by official regulations to remain silent, I have been able to piece together the general picture of that dark chapter in the history of the Malacca General Hospital.

The source of the spate of unusual deaths was the breakdown of the sterilisation plant – the autoclave – in the Malacca General Hospital.

This affected maternity, surgical and medical cases which require blood transfusion or transfusion of saline, because the bottles, containers and syringe are not properly sterilised.

During this period, patients given transfusions react with rigours or convulsions. Others collapsed, lapse into a coma, and died. I understand there have even been cases of deaths on the operating table itself.

During the nightmare week, the doctors, nurses and staff were at a loss, in an atmosphere of fear and panic, because they did not know why patients collapsing one after another, leading to deaths, when there is no reason or apparent cause.

Expectant mothers died when there is no reason or expectation. Surgical cases collapsed and expired, it was really a chamber of horrors in modern Malaysia!

Last week, the hospital carried out a laboratory test and finally located the cause of this series of deaths: inadequate sterilisation of medical instruments, causing contaminated blood or saline to be transfused into the body of the sick, the mother in labour, and the weak.

But by then, how many persons have died and paid with their lives because of the gross inefficiency and incompetence of the Malacca General Hospital?

Following this laboratory test, which found foreign organisms in purportedly sterilised bottles, containers, syringe, the Malacca General Hospital destroyed 42 pints of blood, depleting the blood bank, and over 2,000 bottles of saline (salt solution) or salt drops.

As a result, the blood bank in Malacca General Hospital is at a dangerously low level, and to replenish the blood bank to some extent, hospital staffs were required to give blood.

The supply of sterilised equipment is now made directly from Kuala Lumpur.

Although at present, there is now in use properly sterilised equipment, the atrocious and scandalous negligence, incompetence of the hospital administration causing unnecessary deaths must not allowed to be hushed up as is presently being attempted.

I tried to see the Medical Supervisor and the Chief Medical and Health Officer this morning, but they were engaged in meetings, which seems to be consuming all their working hours.

The negligence of the Malacca General Hospital in allowing strong healthy persons to die because unsterilised medical treatment is gross and criminal negligence, and in the public interest, should not and cannot be hushed up.

I call on the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, to immediately institute a Public Commission of Inquiry to inquire into all aspects of this atrocity and the week of nightmare and horror in the Malacca General Hospital. We want to know immediately how many people died in General Hospital in maternity, surgical and medical during this period. The Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, was in Malacca during the weekend. I would like to know whether he knew or was informed of this death row, and what he had done about it.

Although the climax of the series of death took place between August 6 to 16, a Public Commission of Inquiry must ascertain how many people before August 6, were transfused with contaminated blood or saline, and had died as a consequence, though in not so dramatic a fashion as in August where one followed another in quick succession.

Furthermore, those who had been transfused with contaminated blood or saline but had not succumbed with their life, what after-effects such contamination will have on them throughout the rest of their lives.

The DAP, and the people of Malacca, do not want any excuses, but a full-scale, through public inquiry to go into the full dimensions of this terrible event.

We will not rest until the government has acted resolutely firmly and fairly on this matter.

As for those who have lost their loved ones during this week of nightmare and even before, we welcome them to contact us to provide us with further details and particulars.