KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Kam Agong died from bleeding after a caesarean section at Hospital Lawas in Sarawak in 2002, leading her family to successfully sue the government for negligence.
Seventeen years later, Agnes Padan — a daughter of Kam Agong who had died at age 44 giving birth to her eighth son Jordan — delivered a petition with over 5,000 signatures to Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad to call for a new government hospital in Lawas and equal maternal rights in Sarawak.
“We successfully delivered our petition to .@DrDzul today. We hope this will be the beginning of change for the mothers of Sarawak,” the Kam Agong group comprising Kam Agong’s family and supporters tweeted yesterday, referring to Dzulkefly.
The Kam Agong group also met Miri MP Dr Michael Teo (PKR), Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii (DAP), and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto (DAP) in their Kam Agong Maternal Health Campaign to advocate improved maternal health care in Sarawak and Sabah.
They pointed out that pregnant women had to travel long distances in Sarawak to seek medical care and the latest data on the rate of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in the state was still unavailable.
Malaysia’s maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) in 2013 was 21.4, almost comparable to developed countries’ rate of 12 in 2015, unlike the maternal mortality ratio in developing countries of 239 per 100,000 live births, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics.
“Reducing the maternal mortality rate is #SDG3. Msia has committed to the @SDGoals. The mothers of #Sarawak must be included in this,” the Kam Agong group tweeted, referring to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG).
Kam Agong’s family’s petition urged the government to evaluate maternal health care in Sarawak and Sabah to identify needs; to raise the health care budget in both Borneo states to equal peninsula spending; to ensure that pregnant women and mothers had safe access to health facilities and received care from trained, competent health care professionals; to train specialist doctors, nurses, and midwives from Sarawak and Sabah; and to provide all women access to family planning services.
They noted that the current government hospital in Lawas did not have a gynaecologist or specialist, while a new hospital in the Sarawak district has yet to be built despite being promised in the 7th Malaysia Plan (1996-2000).
Dzulkefly said in response that he was looking forward to visiting Hospital Lawas and expressed the Health Ministry’s commitment to universal health coverage.
According to the Kam Agong group’s website, Kam Agong was from the Lun Bawang tribe, who are mostly Christian farmers.
Padan and her husband, Lawrence Jayaraj, will be screening a documentary on Kam Agong’s death titled “The Story of Kam Agong” this Friday at RUANG by Think City in conjunction with International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.