Chua Jui Meng should leave finding a herbal treatment for AIDs to the professionals and concentrate on his Ministerial responsibility to improve the basic health and hospital services in the country

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Sunday): The Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, grabbed the headlines yesterday with his announcement of progress in experiments on herbal treatment for AIDs, while he continued to remain thunderously silent about serious allegations that he had mishandled the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, manipulated dengue statistics to mislead Parliament and the nation and must be held responsible for the long list of unnecessary and avoidable dengue fatalities after the WHO global dengue alert last July.

As a result, his announcement a day earlier about the Patient Safety Council of Malaysia to identify latent problems, human errors, failures and weaknesses in the existing health care system had elicited derisory responses, such as the following email which I received from a retired medical professional formerly in the public service:

"Sometime early last year I took my mum to the Johore Baru Govt. Hospital Diabetic clinic which was being run by the state Physician, and since we were there early at 1.30 pm, I decided to weigh myself, at the weighing scale that was there in the waiting area, but I found that the scale was not at zero! So I looked for the knob that will allow one to zero the scale, but the knob was missing!! I decided it was no use weighing myself when the machine could not be zeroed.

"When it was 2 pm out came the staff of the diabetic clinic to weigh the patients on that machine! It went on for a while until one young Chinese lady told the nurse 'saya baru timbang di klinik sebelah sana dan di sini 7 paun besar'...and the nurse replied 'OK lah saya tolak 7!'...problem solved!

"I was seated beside an Indian chap and asked why he was there and he told me he brought his aged mother to the diabetic clinic, and that the previous month his brother had brought his mother there.

"A little later his mother came out of the clinic because she was scolded for coming in the afternoon, whereas she should have come in the morning to take blood for her fasting blood sugar test.
"The lady opened her purse and took out a bottle and handed to the nurse saying that that was her blood. As it turned out she had come last month they had taken her blood and they handed the bottle to her assuming that she will take it to the lab, but she did'nt know what she was supposed to do, so she took it home and kept it for month and brought it back on this visit!! For this she got even more scolding!!

"I can tell many more horror stories like this...but it wll go on 'Malaysia Boleh' style!

"Unless this Patient Safety Council has a fair number of brave lay people, very little will come out of the investigations.

"For a start the Malaysian Medical Council, the Malaysian Dental Council, the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Council etc should have a few lay members to allow some sense of fair play in investigations to complaints. Just having one lay person will not do the trick!...worse still when he/she is appointed by the Minister!

"This problem exists in all the other bodies like those governing the Engineers, Architects, Lawyers etc."

Chua should should leave finding a herbal treatment for AIDs to the professionals and concentrate on his Ministerial duties to improve the basic health and hospital services in the country, such as bringing the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history under control and stop the growing list of unnecessary and avoidable dengue deaths, ensuring that weighing machines in hospitals work and that patients are given efficient quality treatment and services in public hospitals.

Acting Prime Minsiter, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawai had publicly lamented the "First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" Malaysian malaise, calling on Malaysians to co-operate to root out such "Ugly Malaysians".

In the First World, medical experiments and research are left to professionals, and their Health Ministers do not make announcements like those made by Chua.

Chua should start being a "First World Minister" who assume full personal authority and responsibility to provide the most basic health and hospital services to the people and do not run away from an immediate accounting for his Ministerial performance whether in Parliament or outside.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman