MPs Demand JB Hospital Fire Report Ahead Of Tragedy’s Fifth Anniversary

A fire broke out at the Jalan Masjid public health clinic in Kuching, Sarawak, on October 3, but did not result in casualties; the 2016 fire at Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru left six dead.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — Two lawmakers today urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to publish the findings of an inquiry by an independent committee into the 2016 fire at Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru Hospital (HSA) that killed six patients.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, who read an emergency motion under Standing Order 18(1) in Parliament this afternoon, said that MOH should immediately upgrade fire safety features in all of its health care facilities across the nation.

“I urge the federal government to prioritise the necessary upgrades to all government premises, especially those under MOH now as hospitals and clinics are packed due to Covid-19,” Dr Yii said today. 

Dr Yii highlighted a fire at the Jalan Masjid public health clinic in Kuching, Sarawak, last Sunday that destroyed more than 80 per cent of medical supplies, including medicine, vaccines, and alcohol.

“While we were glad there were no casualties, such an issue should not be looked upon as an ‘isolated case’ as there have been fire breakouts in other MOH facilities all around the country, including the deadly fire in Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor that caused the loss of six lives.

“It is unfortunate that somehow this report and findings was not released to the public, and no one was held accountable for their actions or inactions which led to these fire outbreaks.

“That is why I call upon the Minister of Health YB Khairy Jamaluddin as one of his 100 days KPI to publish the findings of an independent inquiry and also to have an extensive audit of all fire safety requirements of all health facilities all around the country.”

CodeBlue reported in March 2020, having sighted the report by the independent committee headed by former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, the findings of the inquiry that said the MOH hospital had operated illegally without a fire certificate since unsuccessfully applying for one in 2002. 

The inquiry also found that none of the staff at the south intensive care unit (ICU) of HSA, where the fire broke out, had undergone training in fire drills or emergency evacuation, despite four previous fire outbreaks in the ward before the October 25, 2016 blaze that left six patients dead.

Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasir also echoed a similar concern as Dr Yii, insisting that MOH immediately review fire safety features in all public health care facilities, besides releasing the HSA fire inquiry report.

“That incident should have opened our eyes and realised the need to re-evaluate government building infrastructures particularly those which provide services to the public,” Akmal told the special chambers in Parliament today that heard Dr Yii’s emergency motion.

“We know the independent investigation of the report has been carried out, concluded and classified. It was put under the Official Secret Act (OSA), but has been removed. But the report has not been made publicly available until now.”

Akmal also added that the Johor state government simply gave RM2,000 to the families of the dead victims, RM5,000 to those who were injured badly, and RM3,000 to those who were injured in the 2016 fire at HSA. 

Deputy Health Minister 2 Aaron Ago Dagang, who responded to the motion read by the MPs, claimed that a civil lawsuit against HSA and government over the fire disaster is still ongoing in court. 

“Since the case is still going on in court, the inquiry report was not published,” Aaron replied.

“However, we have taken a lot of measures to upgrade the safety features of hospitals including HSA.”

It is to be noted that the parents of 24-year-old Neeramaladevi Chandran, who died in the fire, filed a civil lawsuit against the HSA director, the Johor state health director, and the government in October 2019, accusing them of negligence.

Besides that, Aaron also mentioned that a total of 47 public hospitals are 50 years and older and were built way before the introduction of the Uniform Building by-law 1984 and Fire Service Act 1988.

“Besides the maintenance works, we are also conducting awareness programmes continuously to increase the commitment towards fire safety in health care facilities.”

He added that a total of RM13,918,000 has been allocated to public health care facilities in 12 states to comply with fire notices under the building condition assessment.

According to the deputy health minister, out of a total of 76 MOH facilities that require a fire certificate, including HSA, 32 have obtained a fire certificate, whereas the balance of 44 hospitals and public health clinics are in the process of getting the certificate.

He did not specify the 44 hospitals and clinics that have not yet obtained a fire certificate.

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