The 1973 Malacca Hospital blood poisoning deaths

Statement By DAP Secretary- General and Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka. Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference held at DAP Malacca Office on Saturday, 9.5.1975 at 10.30 a.m.

The 1973 Malacca Hospital blood poisoning deaths

Twenty- one months ago, on August 22, 1973, I called a press conference in this office to make public the unusually high number of deaths in the Malacca Hospital during the period July 21 to August 20 because of the breakdown of the hospital’s autoclave sterilisation plant causing blood poisoning and deaths of patients.

This was denied by the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, who told the press that “it was unfortunate that some people had associated the twelve deaths with the breakdown of the autoclave.” Tan Sri stressed that “the deaths could be due to many factors and in fact the nature of the illness could load to death.”

Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew continued to cover up the facts and the truths when I moved a motion in Parliament on January 14 and 15 to cut his salary by $10 for misleading the Press, the people, the country and his Cabinet colleagues on this matter. But Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew went further during this debate, where he said; in denying that the breakdown of autoclave had caused deaths:

“Saya ingin menegaskan sekali lagi disini bahawa sebab-sebab kematian adalah kerana berbagai-bagai sebab termasuklah penyakit-penyakit atau kecederaan-kecederaan seperti putus urat saluran darah kerana high- blood pressure, kecederaan otak kerana pecah tempurung kepala, keguguran atau premature birth dan sebagainya.”

Tan Sri completely misled Parliament. Although my motion to cut the Minister’s salary was defeated by 68 to 18, everything that I have said inside Parliament and outside have been vindicated by the Coroser’s Inquest finding yesterday that the Malacca Hospital administrative staff’s negligence has caused the death of Vaithilingam (and others) through blood poisoning. Truth will triumph in the end.

Letter to Prime Minister asking exgratia payment as compensation to the victims.

I have written to the Prime Minister, Tun Razak, after leaving court yesterday evening, urging the Government to gracefully admit the negligence of the administrative staffs of the Malacca Hospital and to make ex-gratia payments as compensation to the victims. Such an ex-gratia payment should not only compensate for the loss of life of the victims, but also include a just adequate quantum to provide for the dependants of the victims.

This letter was taken by hand by Sdr. Chan Teek Chan and delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

In my letter to the Prime Minister, I said:

“The Government should not stand on any narrow ground of technicality or legality, whether on the matter of statutory limitation or other, in view of the fact that the slow and cumbrous machinery of the government itself has taken close to two years just to produce a coroner’s finding in one such case.”

“The victims of the Malacca Hospital autoclave deaths are humble citizens. The man of substance would be able to deal with maladministration and negligence, as he is near to the establishment, enjoy the status or possesses the influence which will ensure him the ear of those in authority or can afford to pursue such legal remedies as may be available. This is not so with the little man, and this is a reality which the government should be cognizant.”

“I therefore appeal to you to use your good offices to secure redress to the nest- of- kis of the innocent dead in the Malacca Hospital from July 21 to August 20 through the making of an out0of0court, ex-gratia payment.”

The government should accept full responsibility for the deaths and pay compensation to the innocent victim, which clearly exceed the figure mentioned by the coroner, who was referring to the month of August only and confined merely to heart and circulatory diseases.

DAP to consider moving a motion of censure against Lee Siok Yew in next meeting of Parliament.

The DAP Parliamentary Group will consider moving a motion of censure against Lee Siok Yew at the next meeting of Parliament scheduled for July, for his handling of the Malacca Hospital deaths. The right and immediate thing to do is such a case public interest is so directly involved is to institute a public inquiry into the deaths, as was called by the DAP. Instead of clarifying and opening up the whole episode to the searchlight of public examination, the high-ups in the Ministry sought to cover up the whole case.

It was only after the DAP brought the whole matter to Parliament in January 1974 that the matter passed from the hands of the Ministry of Health to the Attorney- General’s Chambers.

Whether Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, from his handling of the mass autoclave deaths in Malacca Hospital has shown the abilities and qualities as qualify him for high office is matter for the people and country to judge. The DAP Parliamentarians, and in fact, the country at large, will not forget, however, that in the motion to out his salary, which amounted to a vote of no-confidence in him, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew voted is supporting himself.

I want here to thank Sdr. Bernard Sta Naria and Sdr. Yoon Yee Yoke and others whose names cannot be revealed who had contributed greatly in bringing this ghastly episode into public light. In fact, the protracted coroner’s inquest was a replay of the exposes which we in the DAP had brought out into the public about the Malacca deaths inside and outside Parliament.

The people of Malacca and Malaysia are now waiting to see whether the Government can remedy a great wrong its administration in Malacca Hospital has committed.