Johor MB’s Surprise Visit To HSA Uncovers Health Worker Shortage

Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in Johor Bahru is one of the busiest public hospitals in Malaysia, with over 1,600 outpatients and 600 emergency ward patients daily.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 – In a surprise visit to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in Johor Bahru, Johor Menteri Besar (MB) Onn Hafiz Ghazi has uncovered a shortage of health workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and health care assistants (PPK). 

The hospital is one of the busiest public hospitals in Malaysia, with over 1,600 outpatients and 600 emergency ward patients daily.

During his visit, the Johor MB raised several technical issues that need to be addressed, including covered pedestrian walkways suitable for wheelchair users from the main building to the outpatient clinic, a more systematic and efficient queue numbering system, and an improved online appointment system for patients.

“I hope and request that the Ministry of Health (MOH) can help resolve these issues. InsyaAllah, the state government will assist the ministry in improving the existing system for the comfort of users and staff,” Onn Hafiz said in a tweet today.

The shortage of health workers has been a long-standing issue in Malaysia, with health care professionals leaving for better job opportunities abroad or opting to work in the private sector. 

The government’s effort to address this issue has been to provide more permanent positions for medical, dental, and pharmacy officers, but more needs to be done to ensure that public hospitals have enough staff to provide quality health care services.

In a CodeBlue poll conducted in January this year involving over 1,600 government health care workers, 73 per cent of respondents (1,205 people) said they’re thinking about quitting the government health service.

A whopping 83 per cent (1,365 people) feel the government isn’t serious about addressing issues in the public health care system.

In his tweet, Onn Hafiz did not comment on HSA’s fire safety status, despite the recent Court of Appeal decision to overturn a High Court ruling that dismissed three negligence lawsuits related to the 2016 fire at Sultanah Aminah Hospital that killed six patients.

According to the Fire and Rescue Department in 2020, nearly four years after the deadly blaze on October 25, 2016, HSA did not have a fire certificate. It is unclear if HSA has since obtained a fire certificate. 

Declassified findings of an independent inquiry into the fatal 2016 HSA fire, chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, found that HSA had unsuccessfully applied for a fire certificate in 2002. The public hospital complied with none of 25 fire safety requirements, including the installation of a water sprinkler system.

According to the inquiry, the Fire and Rescue Department knowingly allowed HSA to operate illegally without a fire certificate as fire authorities were reluctant to take action on a government building.

The independent committee handed its report to MOH in June 2018 under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration in which Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is currently Kuala Selangor MP, was the health minister.

But the report was never published by Dzulkefly or by his successors Dr Adham or Khairy Jamaluddin. Current Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has yet to publish the report.

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