A disturbing scene that greeted me at a general hospital

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While political groups play on ethnicity and religion to strengthen their grip on power and divert attention from critical social issues, price hikes and corruption; while some political leaders seek the best medical treatment for themselves; while five-star ‘medical tourism’ is being promoted for better-off visitors; many Malaysians from the lower-income group and middle-class are silently feeling the strain of inadequate public health care infrastructure.

This was the scene that greeted me when I visited a friend at the Seberang Jaya Hospital on 4 January. A cubicle in a medical ward designed for six beds is now forced to accommodate 10 or 11 beds, making the whole cubicle congested.

The cubicle was originally meant for six beds – three against the left wall as you enter and three against the right, with curtain dividers separating the beds for privacy when needed and ample space for visitors to be seated.

But now, there are four beds on either side, with another two or three beds laid out perpendicularly in the centre walkway. As you can see, visitors coming to see the patients have to stand as there is barely any space between the beds.

The curtain dividers for the three beds on either side are now useless as there are now four beds instead of three squeezed on either side. So there is little privacy for the patients.

At the centre of the room lies a half-conscious patient. A Rohingya refugee, he was found lying at the roadside and brought to the hospital. He is unable to speak in the local language and no one can make out what he is saying, except that he is always hungry. Does he have any family? And now he is in a faraway land, what will become of him?

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There is one small toilet and one small shower room for this cubicle of 11 beds. A wheelchair can barely squeeze into these rooms – and how to reach the toilet flush handle on the wall behind?

I hear also that where there used to be three operating theatres at the hospital, there is only one theatre in use at the moment. The other two apparently have been “under renovation” for over a year. Last year, I heard there could be more OTs in the pipeline. But it has already been over a year. So the one remaining OT is being used for emergency cases while those patients who need elective surgery are diverted to nearby hospitals such as at Bertam. What happens if there are several emergency cases at the same time which require urgent surgical procedures? Is precious time to be wasted in transporting the patients to hospitals further away?

Don’t get me wrong; the staff at the hospital are doing an admirable job under the circumstances. Many of them are hard-working and diligent – but they are being let down by the inadequate infrastructure and equipment and lack of specialists in certain sections. And I shudder to think there could be other general hospitals that have to operate with even less resources.

A government doctor based in Kedah told me the number of patients seeking treatment in his general hospital has risen noticeably. Can anyone confirm this? Is this another consequence of the Barang Naik syndrome – that more people can no longer afford to go to private hospitals?

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Last I heard, the Malaysian government spends only about 2 per cent of GDP on public health care. And this includes the high cost of support services (cleaning, maintenance, meals for patients, drug procurement) after their privatisation to well-connected companies during the Mahathir administration. At least the corporate boys are happy.

Blog visitor gooner shares his experience:

As a health care worker in the government, I can attest that the above pictures are but the norm in government hospitals.

I’ve worked in general hospitals and also district hospitals, where facilities are even more lacking compared to those in the general hospitals (which are already lacking in proper infrastructure and medical equipment); so those pictures are no surprise to me.

There are smaller districts hospitals where it takes more than two hours to reach a general hospital- imagine the hassle the health care team and the patient’s family have to go through! The people DESERVE better treatment than this – health should be a priority in the development of ALL nations.

Over in Kuching, blog contact JJ says the Sarawak General Hospital, along with its parking constraints, says the situation is no better.

Blog visitor StrugglingToMakeEndsMeet reflects the thoughts of many low-income Malaysians:

… for folks fortunate enough to have medical insurance, they don’t see this. Unfortunately for me, I had to live it.

My son was admitted two years ago in Klang TAR Hospital. Cramped doesn’t begin to describe it. I could see the look of shock on my friend’s and Pastor’s faces when they visited. People and belongings being moved everyday.

My poor son had to sleep in the middle of a cubicle, on the side and anywhere they could fit a bed until a main bed became available. I wanted to cry for not being able to afford medical insurance and private hospital care. However, the nurses and (most) doctors were superb in coping with the environment and workload.

It’s no wonder doctors can’t wait to leave government service! My biggest fear is to have to be hospitalised in my old age and having no option but government hospital.

What do the politicians care when they drive around in their fancy limousines and jet-set around the world.

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Share with us your experience of the state of our general hospitals.

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Halim Hussain
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Halim Hussain

Have a visit to the ward at Kulim Hospital it is either similar or worst than SJ.
In one visit to a hospital the pharmacist complain that they are short of supply of critical medication & no fund to purchase & xray machine rosak. The later was later rectified after highlighted.Scary but real.

Ken
Guest
Ken

Sbg. Jaya Hospital is bursting at the seams. Sad but true and the problem won’t heal by itself. Over to you MOH.

AA
Guest
AA

The situation described above is not new to any healthcare worker in the public sector. Indeed I have witnessed it in Hospital Seberang Jaya ever since 2010. You see the same thing in Penang General Hospital as well, namely ward C5 and C6, which are also medical wards too. Anil, if you happen to visit your friend during the morning ward rounds (usually about 8am), you will get to witness another ‘interesting’ scenario, that is the huge number of doctors in the team trying to move around in the cramped wards during the ward rounds. A consequence of the government… Read more »

Priscilla
Guest
Priscilla

Thanks for the writeup on SJ Hospital. Please visit Pg GH too… yet nobody looks at these areas, the public is more caught up other issues especially on Allah God. M sure Allah-God is indeed sad when people fight for him in the name of love? Yet how do the govt agency show love in medical care? And the heads of the country flies all over… If leaders of the nation do not know how to take care of the people then what it is they can do? I met a driver of a GH ambulance yesterday, n he said… Read more »

OWC
Guest
OWC

Be thankful at least the hospital ceiling did not fall on you!

moot
Guest

There is no issue for cramped bed in a room, for those politickus, since they will get their own private room. Is cramp room and bad air circulation big problem for healthcare? Again , yes to medical expert, no for politikus. Fresh air improve recovery, but all Bolehland news tell us that new hospital become disease hotbed, mold growing inside “new” hospital? And putting patients from lack of vaccination together with local flock? This is not discrimination, but a clear and present danger, many infection disease that vanish from Bolehland(TM) through vaccination make a come back, not through the “super-germs”,… Read more »

Phua Kai Lit
Guest
Phua Kai Lit

Here is something I prepared for the “Public Health Supercourse” website:

http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec43041/index.htm

Phua Kai Lit
Guest
Phua Kai Lit

Blindly copying Thatcher’s ideologically-motivated assault on the
English NHS (National Health Service) – a policy continued by her successors (including
the current Prime Minister David Cameron) – Malaysia has created
a two class system of health care. WIth plenty of opportunities for rent-seeking by the
politically-connected.

If we have the money (or the insurance coverage), we can seek quicker care in the
private sector. But there are quality concerns too. The fee-for-service system of
payment creates incentives for provision of “medically unnecessary” care.

Do we want to end up with a US-style healthcare system where more than
60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to healthcare costs ?

AK47
Guest
AK47

When I read the following 2 Websites, I thought I was in a Third World country with their illuminating comments :-

1. http://www.emeritus.com/2014/01/08/pm-lee-critcised-for-bringing-wife-to-police-meeting/
2. http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/01/09/sg-hospitals-house-patients-in-corridors-tents/

tunglang
Guest

The SingLand hospital bed crunch scenario is no different from ours since the turn of this century. Since the 1997 economic crisis, more people are left jobless, earning less or loss substantial savings in the stock market. Added the influx of foreign workers, we now have a scenario of demand over supply imbalance in public health care. Public general hospitals used to be shunned by many able to pay for private health care via health insurance or own pockets. But private health care fees have increased exponentially & ‘uncontrolled’ for the many reasons such as higher medicine costs, hitech equipments… Read more »

georgina t
Guest
georgina t

tunglang must have read The Star yesterday about high cost n poor service in Singland affecting its people. anilnetto.com gave 1st hand account of our local hospital which The Star for known reason prefers to conceal from public and shows deficiencies in Spore. The Star needs to look at our own backyard and highlight the truth (no polishing) so that swift action can be taken for us to catch up with developed nations ! kudos to anil once again. Save your RM1.20 buying The Star and opt for kopi o kau kau (balance 10 sen or 20 sen can donate… Read more »

OWC
Guest
OWC

Do not be deceived by words of someone who has never been to Singapore to criticise Singapore medical services.

Watch this video on the tour of Singapore General Hospital:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzsdWUenL-I

By the way, a new hospital is coming up at Jurong East (many Malaysian workers are staying in Jurong) to provide quality medical services to the people in the western part of Singapore.

AA
Guest
AA

Yea agree with OWC. Indeed what is ‘news’ in Singapore is actually a ‘norm’ in Malaysia. Some of their public hospitals are actually better than the private hospitals in Malaysia.

kee
Guest

The poor can die but cannot get sick this is what they say, how true !

Mr PM is talking about we will be a developed nation by 2018 when we cant even take care of our jamban…

The country’s leaders travel in style, shopping spree in Paris, wear fine silk, bling bling bling etc etc etc, and the poor rakyat comes every 5 year vote them to be in power yet again… bodoh bodoh bodoh !

Vote la BN comes GE14 !!!

OWC
Guest
OWC

It is quite disturbing to read on today’s The Sun that:
1) Inflation will hit 3.4% for the first 9 months this year;
2) Ringgit to depreciate further to trade at RM3.35 to the US Dollar this year.

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/926645

Also: “The outlook for 2014 will be guarded and prices of developments in growing and hot spot areas will not be coming down” = TMM = Tiada Mampu Milik!

Priyanka
Guest
Priyanka

disturbing for orphanages as well.
those under priviledged children should enrol in Datin Rosmah’s Permata program; and can find joy riding the planes (many leased planes not fully utilised ?) and go to Spore Universal Studio for rides (and Welfare Wanita Datin Sharizat can provide free accomodation at condo in Spore?) ????

gooner
Guest
gooner

As a healthcare worker in the government, I can attest that the above pictures are but the norm in government hospitals. I’ve worked and to general hospitals and also district hospitals, where facilities are even more lacking compared to those in the general hospitals (which are already lacking in proper infrastructure and medical equipment), so those pictures are no surprise to me. There are smaller districts hospitals where it takes more than 2 hours to reach a general hospital- imagine the hassle the healthcare team and the patient’s family have to go through! The people DESERVE better treatment than this-… Read more »

sunnyooi
Guest
sunnyooi

A country with so much natural resources. Squandered by few.

StrugglingToMakeEndsMeet
Guest
StrugglingToMakeEndsMeet

Yes, Anil… for folks fortunate enough to have medical insurance, they don’t see this. Unfortunately for me, I had to live it. My son was admitted 2 years ago in Klang TAR Hospital. Cramped doesn’t begin to describe it. I could see the look of shock on my friend’s and Pastor’s face when they visited. People and belongings being moved everyday. My poor son had to sleep in the middle of a cubicle, on the side and anywhere they could fit a bed until a main bed became available. I wanted to cry for not being able to afford medical… Read more »

DriedChilli@MadrasLane
Guest

Is this part of PM Najib 11 cost saving measures to preserve national coffer ?

what we know now s that hospitals are prescribing less and less medicines; and need to show up more often to get the regular supply……no wonder the ground is heating up ?

Jit Seng
Guest
Jit Seng

No different from the standard of Klinik 1malaysia? I guess the government is now on austerity drive?
Now certain hospitals also cut down on the number of cleaners.
BN is short of money?

Dharma
Guest
Dharma

What to do when money are channeled to BR1M?

Tony
Guest
Tony

There is more than meets the eye. Yes, medical services are provided but lacks quality. A patient is always asked to return after 3-8 months for his/her next appointment. And one has to wait for hours to consults the doctor. But who cares. Our leaders go overseas for treatment.

Ananars
Guest
Ananars