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Health Minister’s statement that “medical mistakes inevitable” most regrettable as hospitals should be required to have “zero-negligence” policy to avoid repetition of ordeals like Yok Shan losing her left forearm or having a pair of forceps left in abdomen after an operation

2008 Budget Debate Speech         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): The Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek’s statement in the press yesterday that “medical mistakes are inevitable” however careful the doctors are is most regrettable and must be deplored by all MPs as it is tantamount to giving a blank cheque for hospital negligence endangering lives and welfare of the people seeking medical treatment.

We claim to want to be a first-world developed nation which is not matched by a first-world mentality and mindset, such as making an important distinction between mistakes and negligence in hospital. The former is understandable and acceptable but the latter, i.e. negligence, is totally unacceptable and unforgivable.

Tragic cases like the baby girl Lai Yok Shan who lost her left forearm because of a chain of negligence at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang or a private hospital nurse Kalaiyarasi Perumal, 44, who went through the nightmare of a pair of forceps left in her abdomen after an operation at the Sultan Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru cannot be accepted as unavoidable incidents.

Yok Shan was born two months premature on July 23, 2007 and kept in an incubator and on a ventilator. When her condition deteriorated, it was decided to give her strong antibiotics which could only be administered intravenously.

A trainee doctor who received instructions over the telephone from the specialist doctor on duty administered the injection. The trainee doctor inserted the needle into muscles and tissues instead of blood vessel in the arm. This caused the baby’s arm to be infected.

It is clear that there is a chain of irresponsibility and negligence resulting in Yok Shan having to lose her arm, involving the trainee doctor, the specialist doctor, the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital, the Ministry of Health and even the panel of medical specialists announced by Chua on August 9 to save Yok Shan’s left arm.

This was because Lai’s parents were told that Yok Shan would undergo an operation expected to last from two to four hours to amputate her left arm, but in actual fact, no amputation was needed as the blackened arm came off when the orthopedic surgeon lifted and turned it.

Although the Health Ministry has admitted liability for Lai Yok Shan losing her left forearm, the Minister should give a full account in Parliament as to how such hospital negligence could occur, as this is a matter of public interest and not just a private matter between the Ministry and the Lai family concerned – furthermore we want to ensure that there will not be a recurrence of such negligence.

Hospital negligence has destroyed the life of Yok Shan who will have to live with this man-made disaster in a life-span of 70 to 80 years. I call on the Health Minister to ensure that the government pays a proper compensation to Yok San – not a paltry sum of RM60, 000 that is now being offered.

Religious teacher Bashah Mustaffa who was given HIV-contaminated blood during a transfusion in Jitra Hospital seven years ago has been awarded RM450, 000 by the Alor Star High Court and is appealing against the amount.

The Health Minister and the Attorney-General should do justice to Yok Shan’s tragedy caused by the shocking negligence of the Klang hospital personnel with a compensation of at least RM2 million.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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