KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — The Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) director and the government have denied negligence in a 2016 fire at the Ministry of Health (MOH) facility that killed six patients.
Jailani Rahman — a senior federal counsel who represented both parties against a lawsuit filed by Neeramaladevi Chandran’s parents — also told the plaintiffs to provide “strong and comprehensive” evidence that negligence over the maintenance of HSA had caused the fire on October 25, 2016, that took 24-year-old Neeramaladevi’s life.
Both the HSA director and Malaysian government stated the following on behalf of all three defendants (the second defendant is the Johor state health director) in their defence filed in the Johor Baru Sessions Court in Johor last January 12, as sighted by CodeBlue:
“At the material time, staff who worked at the hospital, especially at the intensive care unit (ICU) of Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru, always prioritised the safety of patients, including the deceased;
“All Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru officers and staff were frequently trained to face and handle any possibility of an emergency;
“Officers and staff serving at Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru were trained and experienced staff;
“Maintenance, repairs, and checks on the safety, facilities, electrical wiring and equipment, and building structure at Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru followed procedures and standards set by the Ministry of Health and local authorities, as well as related agencies;
“Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru prepared a quick, appropriate, and efficient evacuation plan for unexpected incidents, especially the incident that happened on that date, and;
“All rescue efforts were conducted quickly, efficiently, and at an optimum level in line with the standards and procedures that were set by the Ministry of Health, local authorities, and related agencies.”
The defendants also stated that the vicarious liability of the government over the actions of the HSA director and the Johor state health director was subject to being proved under Sections 5 and 6 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956. Both sections talk about the liability of the government in tort and limits of such liability.
Both the HSA director and the government rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that “res ipsa loquitor” applied to the case, a legal principle that means the incident wouldn’t normally happen without negligence. It is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”.
Both the first and third defendants simply admitted that a fire had happened and that Neeramaladevi had died.
“Except for what was clearly stated and previously acknowledged, the defendants deny all and each and every statement of fact in the plaintiffs’ statement of claim, as if they were made consecutively and refuted particularly,” said the HSA director and the government.
They said Neeramaladevi’s parents — Chanthiran Palanisamy and Rajaswari Ramalingam — had no right to claim for damages or other reliefs.
CodeBlue reported last November both parents as alleging in their civil lawsuit that the HSA director, Johor state health director, and the government failed to ensure the care and safety of patients, especially Neeramaladevi, when she was admitted to the MOH hospital in Johor Baru, Johor. The young woman had been treated at the ICU.
The three parties were also accused of failing to ensure maintenance and to repair all facilities, electrical wiring, and electrical equipment in the building; as well as failure to supervise workers and staff, especially those responsible for maintenance of the safety of the public hospital.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has yet to publish the report of an independent investigation led by former Court of Appeal judge, Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, into the fire that happened during the previous Barisan Nasional administration, despite multiple promises last year to do so.
Hishamudin, the G25 group of retired high-ranking civil servants, and veteran physician Dr Milton Lum previously called for the inquiry to be declassified.
But an MOH spokesman from the corporate communications unit told CodeBlue last February 11 that the ministry would not release any information on the investigation for now.
It is unknown who is representing the second defendant, the Johor state health director, in Neeramaladevi’s parents’ lawsuit. Case management has been set for March 18.