Malacca Hospital deaths – Investigating Committee should stop all procrastinations and delays

Opposition Leader and DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, today issued the following statement (2.10.1973):

Lim Kit Siang wants Health Minister to impress on the Malacca Hospital deaths Investigating Committee a sense of urgency and stop all procrastinations and delays

I have today written to the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, asking him to impress on the Investigation Committee into the Malacca Hospital deaths in July and August with a sense of urgency, and that it should not procrastinate or delay its inquiry and findings.

The Investigation Committee first met in Malacca General Hospital on Sept. 10, 11 and 12, and postponed proceedings for two weeks till Sept. 27. The Sept. 27 resumption was later postponed till Oct. 1, which has now been further postponed to an indefinite date.

Such delays and protracted postponements can only strengthen public reservations and doubts about the sincerity of the Ministry of Health to get to the truth about the 110 deaths in the Malacca Hospital from July 21 to August 20, when the hospital’s autoclave ceased to operate.

In my letter to the Health Minister, I wrote:

“Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew,
Minister of Health,
Ministry of Health.


The Investigation Committee to inquire into the unusual Malacca Hospital deaths first met on Sept. 10, 11 and 12, and adjourned for two weeks till Sept. 27. This Sept. 27 date was further postponed till Oct. 1. There has again been a further postponement, now indefinitely.

In view of the gravity of the subject-matter, concerning the circumstances which caused 110 deaths in the General Hospital from July 21 to August 20 at a time when the hospital’s autoclave ceased to operate, and the question of the public confidence in the Malacca General Hospital administration, you should impress on the Investigation Committee with a sense of urgency to get on with the inquiry without any procrastinations and delay.

All members of the Investigation Committee should put aside their other commitments and obligations, and sit at a stretch until the completion of their inquiry and finding.

This is all the more important as the public do not see any reform in the administration of the Malacca General Hospital. In fact, after you have established an investigation committee to inquire into the July/August deaths, there continue to occur cases of negligence and maladministration.

In this connection, I would like you to cause an investigation to be made into the death of two-year-old boy, Kua Tai Hock, who 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. Kua Tai Hock died 15 hours after admission, the day before your visit to the Malacca General Hospital on Sept. 4.

The facts of Kua Tai Hock’s case is as follows:

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 night his mother, Madam Tan Leong, took him to the Malacca General Hospital as he was very ill. Kua Tai Hock was seen by a doctor at about 10.15 p.m., after which he was given outpatient treatment again, without being admitted.

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

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

When Tan Hock reached the ward, he 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 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.

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 an injection. His condition did not improve.

It was only until about 9.30 a.m. on 3.9.1973 – 12 hours after his admission the previous night – that Kua Tai Hock was seen by a doctor, by which time the boy’s condition was already very bad.

The boy died at about 1.30 p.m., despite attempts to save his life. The cause of death given was bronchopneumonia with G.I. bleeding.

This case of Kua Tai Hock happened after the autoclave period. Many questions cry out for answer:

1. Was Tai Hock’s death unavoidable and necessary, especially when he had been receiving outpatient treatment for one week previously – which means that all along, the hospital doctors did not think his case serious enough to warrant admission?

2. Wasn’t there a doctor on call at the Malacca General Hospital at night to see or review serious cases hour by hour?

3. Why didn’t a single doctor attend to Tai Hock for 12 hours despite his serious condition on admission?

4. Was it hygienic and compatible with standard health practice to continue to use an oxygen tent for a patient, although another person has died under it, without any change of bedsheet even?

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

In the public interest, you should take firm measures to restore the people’s confidence in the public hospital system in the country.