Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr.Lim Kit Siang, today issued the following statement (30.8.1973):
Lim Kit Siang meets the Minister of Health over Malacca Hospital deaths
I met the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, in his office in Kuala Lumpur for an hour this morning over the unusually high number of deaths in the Malacca General Hospital in the first part of August this year during the breakdown of the hospital’s autoclave (sterilisation plant).
I expressed to the Minister my grave concern at the large number of unexplained deaths and my disappointment that there was not going to be a public inquiry into the deaths.
Because of the long history of poor public image of the public hospital service, and the recent unusually high number of unusual deaths, public confidence in the hospital service in general, and the Malacca General Hospital in particular is at the lowest ebb.
Usually, the free wards of the Malacca General Hospital are packed and crammed and I have more than once complained in Parliament that free ward patients had to sleep on floor and along corridors.
There is a complete turnabout in the last few days, to the extent that there are many vacant beds in the free wards. This is also the case with the surgical wards in the Malacca General Hospital.
In actual fact, I would think that the Malacca General Hospital would be much more safer than any other general hospital, for as a result of the national publicity on the unusually large number of deaths during the autoclave breakdown spotlighting inefficiency and negligence, the General Hospital Malacca staff will be more conscientious and cautious.
However, this is a psychological problem of public confidence, which needs firm and positive action by the Ministry of Health. Because of the background factors, it is not enough that there is justice done, but justice must be seen to be done. Similarly, it will not be enough for there to be competence and efficiency, but competence and efficiency must be seen to exist.
At the meeting with the Minister of Health, I offered my fullest co-operation to help restore public confidence in the hospital service in general and Malacca General Hospital in particular, as I would like to see the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money utilised to produce competent, efficient and humane hospitals which Malaysians can be proud of.
However, public confidence can only be fully restored if the people are convinced that the Ministry of Health will hold an unfettered investigation into the unusually high number of deaths in the Malacca General Hospital, and is determined to take whatever actions necessary to reform the hospital administration to make a complete break from the previous regime of maladministration, negligence and incompetence.
There must be no cause for any Malaysian to feel that the Ministry of Health was trying to hush-up the full story of the unusually high number of deaths, and that the investigation committee was merely an instrument to cover up rather than to clean the cobwebs and skeletons in the hospital cupboards.
It is for this reason that I suggest, and still insist, that there should be a Public Commission of Inquiry, for let the facts speak directly for themselves. Despite the Minister of Health’s assurance to me at the meeting that he was personally concerned about the matter, and investigation committee set up would be given a free hand to ascertain the full facts of the cases, I am more convinced than ever than there can be no satisfactory substitute to a Public Inquiry to regain public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the public medical service.
Furthermore, there must be represented on the investigation committee members whom the public have no doubt about their complete independence from the government.
At the meeting, I also proposed some measures to regain public confidence in the Malacca General Hospital.