Health Group Demands Accountability For HSA Fires

Health professionals are trained to “first, do no harm”, says the Malaysian Health Coalition.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) today called for parties to be held accountable over fire outbreaks, including a deadly one in 2016, at Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA).

The group comprising 48 member societies and 19 individuals also urged the government to publish the findings of an independent inquiry into the October 25, 2016 fire at the Johor Baru public hospital that killed six patients.

HSA has since suffered another blaze, albeit a minor one, at a women’s ward last Sunday that forced the evacuation of 24 patients. Before the deadly 2016 fire at the South ICU, the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital previously suffered four previous outbreaks in the same ward.

“Relevant parties must be appropriately held accountable for their actions or inactions which led to the HSA fires.

“Transparency will strengthen patient safety, identify opportunities for improvement, increase accountability and debunk conspiracy theories,” MHC said in a statement.

The health group acknowledged that while some information should be kept confidential for patient privacy reasons, public health data must be made accessible.

“In particular, and alongside many other stakeholders, including many politicians from both sides, we call for the publication of the report into the 2016 HSA fires.”

The HSA fire inquiry led by former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus submitted its report to the then-Pakatan Harapan government in June 2018. But then-Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad did not make the report available to the public.

CodeBlue reported last March the findings of the inquiry which found, among others, that HSA did not have a fire certificate; none of the South ICU staff had undergone training in fire drills or emergency evacuation; and the hospital’s fire extinguishers were malfunctioning.

Lawmakers from both sides of the divide, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak, recently urged the Perikatan Nasional government to release the inquiry report.

MHC also said health data should be shared across relevant ministries, health professional societies, and researchers to further strengthen Malaysia’s health care system.

“In the current system, some data which helps produce the Ministry of Health’s Annual Reports remains inaccessible even to researchers.

“If all areas of our health system can contribute to and source from a shared database, we can draw a more comprehensive picture of Malaysia’s population health and collaborate to find solutions for health inequities in the country,” said MHC.

The health coalition further urged the government to invest in information technology systems and infrastructure to ensure easy access to accurate and updated data for health care delivery and safety.

“Besides that, improved patient safety requires a cultural shift in favour of non-punitive inquisition for early detection and resolution of errors in and around our healthcare system, before there is irreversible damage.”

MHC stressed that patient safety was a top priority, pointing out that health professionals are trained to “first, do no harm”.

“Public trust in our health care system depends on patient safety as the most fundamental duty of care, and patient safety is everyone’s responsibility. While it is impossible to be free of error and risk, all stakeholders must work together to maximise patient safety in Malaysia’s health system.”

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