(Malacca, Wednesday): The outright
denials by the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng that there is an outbreak of
the meningitis killer disease and worse, that there is a nation-wide
meningococcal meningitis alert by the Health Ministry two days after it was
given front-page headline publicity in the Sunday newspapers is the height of
irresponsibility and do not inspire public confidence in the ability and
professionalism of the Health Ministry to protect the Malaysian public from
killer diseases and epidemics.
I had on Monday asked Chua to explain why the Health Ministry through the Health
director-general Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Taha Arif had issued a nation-wide meningococcal meningitis alert only
after three deaths in two weeks – the deaths of two Universiti Putra Malaysia
(UPM) students in Selangor, Loy Cheah Kee, 23, and D. Thiyagarajah, 23 on
June 27 and 29 respectively, and of UiTM mass communications student, Kasnita
Mohd Kassim, 29, in Shah Alam last Friday.
Instead of explaining, Chua has chosen to deny that there
was such a “national alert” – 48 hours after it was reported in the Sunday
national press. If there was no
such meningitis “national
alert”, Chua should have denied it on Sunday itself instead of waiting for 48
Chua’s attempt to downplay the meningitis outbreak by
claiming that there was only a meningitis-linked death is most irresponsible.
If there is no meningitis outbreak, why have over 600 UPM students been
screened for the killer bacterial disease in the past fortnight, and why has the
UiTM offered meningitis vaccination for its students at its health centre, at
RM10 per jab – when efforts should have been taken to ensure that nobody is
allowed to profiteer from the meningitis outbreak and the vaccinations at UiTM
should have been offered free of charge, or at nominee fee to the students.
should stop playing games with the lives and health of Malaysian, and he
should learn from the lessons of the Nipah and Coxsackie B virus
epidemics and not a commit a trio
of disastrous handling of disease outbreaks in his tenure as Health Minister.
Nipah outbreak in 1999, which killed over a hundred people and
destroyed the livelihood of thousands of people,
was Chua’s most notorious mishandling of a disease
outbreak. But earlier in
1997, there was the Coxsackie B virus outbreak which killed 41 mostly babies in
Sarawak. In both these cases, Chua
had been claiming that the situation was under control despite the rising toll
of lives killed by the epidemic.
Chua’s outright denials only reinforce public disquiet at
an official cover-up of the meiningitis outbreak, especially as Kasnita might
not have died if there had been a nation-wide alert of the meningitis outbreak
immediately after the death of two UPM students some two weeks earlier.
I had on Monday asked about the two earlier deaths because of meningitis in March this year
and Chua should answer why he is avoiding the issue, or why Parliament
was never informed about the two primary school pupils in Kuching who died of
meningitis in March, whether during the
March/April or the June
meeting of the Dewan Rakyat.
Is Chua too busy with the MCA power struggle (which has gone underground) to do a competent job as Health Minister?