A fresh case of Malacca Hospital negligence

Statement by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, MR. Lim Kit Siang, at a press conference in Malacca Office, 33A Jalan Munshi Abdullah, on Tuesday, 25th Sept. 1973

A fresh case of Malacca Hospital negligence where a two-year-old boy was admitted on Sept. 2 night and not attended to by any doctor for 12 hours, and died 15 hours after admission

I have received a complaint fro Madam Tan Leong from Kota Timor that her two-year-old son was admitted into the Malacca General Hospital on the night of 2.9.1973, and was not attended to by any doctor for 12 hours, and died 15 hours after admission.

Mdm. Tan Leong’s two-year-old son, Kua Tai Hock, was having fever for one week, and had been receiving outpatient treatment from the Malacca General Hospital. Kua Tai Hock had difficulty in breathing sweating and had cold hands and feet.

On Sept. 2, Madam Tan Leong took the boy to the Casualty department of the Malacca General Hospital as the boy was very ill. Kua TaiHock was seen by a doctor at about 10.15 p.m., after which he was given outpatient treatment again. The doctor did not admit Tai Hock.

While waiting to collect the medicine prescribed by the doctor, Kua Tai Hock’s condition worsened, his breathing became more difficult and his finger tips were turning blue.

Madam Tan Leong pleaded with the nurse on duty for help. This time, the doctor came, accompanied by another doctor, who both examined the boy and then had him admitted.

Madam Tan said that when they reached the ward, Tai Hock was seriously ill. He was put under the oxygen tent. But he had to share it with another baby. Later in the night, this other baby died but Kua Tai Hock continued to be under the same oxygen tent. There was no change of bed or bedsheet or the tent canopy even though one patient has just died. Is this hygienic? Is this compatible with standard health practice?

Since Tai Hock’s admission into the ward, no other doctor saw or reviewed his condition. He was very ill, restless and breathless. Madam Tan asked the staff nurse to help and she gave him another injection. His condition, however, did not improve.

It was only until about 9.30 a.m. on 3.9.73 that Kua Tai Hock was seen by a doctor, by which time the boy’s condition was already very bad.

There was a heroic attempt to save the boy’s life, but to no avail. The boy died at about 1.30 p.m. The cause of death given was Bronchopneumonia with G.I. bleeding.

It is quite evident that Kua Tai Hock should not have died, especially as he had been receiving outpatient treatment at the Malacca General Hospital for a week prior to his admission. The General Hospital is fully aware of his case history.

Many questions cry out for answer:

1. Isn’t there a doctor on call at the Malacca General hospital at night to see or review patients who are seriously ill?

2. What is the standard practice in the Malacca Hospital with regard to the continued use of an oxygen tent, although someone else had died under it?

3. What wasn’t Kua Tai Hock admitted into Hospital in the first instance?

4. Why didn’t any doctor attend to Kua Tai Hock for 12 hours after his admission, despite the fact that his condition was deteriorating?

5. Was there adequate and early and timely medical supervision and nursing care?

I am indeed shocked to come across this case, for this happened after I had raised the abnormally high number of Malacca Hospital deaths during the period July 21 to August 20, because of negligence and maladministration of the Malacca Hospital authorities.

I would have thought that although the government’s investigation committee had not completed its inquiry into the 110 Malacca Hospital deaths from July 21 to August 20, there would at least for the present be a higher standard of patient care and hospital competence and efficiency.

This case showed that things had not changed, that a boy can be admitted into hospital, seriously ill, without being attended to by any doctor for 12 hours – and who died soon after. When it is remember that this death happened on the day before the Health Minister, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, visited the Malacca Hospital, on Sept. 4 it is obvious that the rot in the Malacca General Hospital has gone too far.

If the Health Minister, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, is not prepared to take drastic action to reform the Malacca Hospital administration, and discipline those in overall responsibility, then the people of Malacca should consider seriously launching a campaign, not only against the Malacca Hospital authorities, but also against the Health Minister for permitting such state of affairs to continue unchanged.

I will be writing to the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, and if I do not see any Ministerial reform of the Malacca General Hospital, then I will be forced to reconsider the Minister of Health’s role in this sorry state of affairs.

The unnecessary death of Kua Tai Hock lends further strength to the case that all inquiries into the unnecessary Malacca Hospital deaths should be open and public.

The Minister should also set up a special committee to inquire into Kua Tai Hock’s death.