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Schoolgirl’s TB death points to weaknesses in healthcare system

A long queue waiting at the crowded Penang General Hospital - ANIL NETTO/FILE PHOTO

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Carmen Yee’s death suggests shortcomings in the country’s healthcare system, says JD Lovrenciear.

The case of Penang schoolgirl, Carmen Yee, 19, who succumbed to tuberculosis not only demands investigation but deserves national scrutiny.

Take ownership, Malaysia! Why must young Malaysians die of TB in today’s progressive, new Malaysia? The media narrations suggest this was not just a case of ‘isolated negligence’.

We have to have the courage to say enough is enough, if our political representatives cannot deliver.

The health minister may be determined to save lives through a blanket ban on smoking at all eateries nationwide. But he fails to realise that the real problem may lie in the falling apart of yet another ministry. Not only is the Ministry of Education in a shambles; so too is the Ministry of Health, it would seem.

Just look at how we are dealing with the haze, which has worsened with each passing year.

How did Carmen end up a victim? What do our politicians have to say? Will we again hear the public relations spin of how effective our healthcare delivery is, with feel-good stories in the media? Let us not be fooled again by the often-heard rebuttal that one bad apple does not spoil the whole basket.

Carmen did not receive the urgent professional medical help she needed. The ambulance was apparently not available. The emergency department allegedly could not respond with precision ability.

The attitude of some of the staff leaves much to be desired. The health minister should go in disguise and hang out in hospitals at night to get a feel of how ‘teruk‘ the situation on the ground is in some places.

The most effective medication is sometimes not available. Senior citizens, including those who are barely mobile, are sometimes asked to come back repeatedly.

How does the standard of healthcare in Malaysia, which aspires to enter the ranks of ‘developed nations’, compare with the standards in those nations?

Why is TB still here? Are we going to hear the justification that it is on the rise in other countries as well?

Look at the food and beverage industry. How many of the millions of workers have been given reliable health screenings, which are validated periodically? Go ask the workers on the quiet and they might cough out the truth.

All concerned citizens must say enough is enough. If politicians who got elected based on their lofty promises cannot deliver, they had better take ownership and quit. They do not have to wait until their five-year term is up.

Carmen should never have died.

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