Hornbill Unleashed

October 19, 2011

‘How did our baby die?’

Joseph Tawie

PKR has called for an inquest into the death of a Penan infant allegedly due to negligence on the part of the Miri hospital.

A Penan couple from Long Napir in Ulu Limbang are demanding that the state medical authorities conduct an inquest into the death of their newborn infant on Oct 15, 2011 in the Miri Hospital.

Taking the hospital to task for its negligence and insensitivity, angry Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who is also a lawyer said, the couple also want to know how their baby died when they had adhered to the advise of the doctor.

“It is tragic that a precious life was lost. I have been instructed by the parents of the girl, Roy Dumai and Seri Yung, who are Penans from Long Napir in Ulu Limbang to write to the Miri Hospital and the Health Department, asking for representation for the inquest and to be furnished reports of the infant mortality review.

“I noted that this is not an isolated case,” said See, who is also Sarawak PKR vice-chairman.

See is of the view that negligence could have been one of the factors leading to the death of the baby girl.

Relating the incident, he said for the past four months the couple had been living in Limbang to enable Seri Yung to receive regular medical follow-up and treatment after the doctor advised them that it was a high risk pregnancy.

On Oct 13 Seri Yung went into labour and experienced difficulties in delivery.

She was then transferred from Limbang Hospital to Miri by ambulance even though it would have been more appropriate to use the helicopter to send her. The journey passing through Brunei took several hours.

“Upon arrival in Miri, the mother was again asked to attempt natural delivery and after 10 hours, the Caesarean section was conducted (on her) at or about 2.00 am on Oct 14.

“The baby girl died at about 10.00 am on Oct 15. Seri Yung was discharged on Oct 16 and the Miri Hospital insisted that they must pay RM180.00 before they left,” said See.

‘They begged for leniency’

According to See, the shattered couple were at loss and had pleaded with the hospital for leniency.

“The Penan couple are poor farmers, hunters and jungle product gatherers.

“They do not have any income saved when they sell their catch, fruits and vegetables occasionally.

“They tried to plead with the hospital that they have no money. But instead of showing mercy on them, the couple was verbally abused by the staffs of the hospital.

“In the end they had to borrow money from their friends and relatives to pay off the hospital bills,” said See.

Describing the whole incident as ‘tragic’, See said it also drew attention to the deprivation and treatment meted out to the rural folk, in this case the Penan community.

“It is tragic that a precious life was lost. It is even more dreadful when the unfortunate episode showed that the rural folks, particularly the Penans are deprived and prejudiced in the provision of public services and care, in medical and health care and education in particular.

“The indifferent and pathetic attitude towards our fellow beings of the most deprived rural communities is a heinous crime against humanity.

“Our society has disgustingly failed ourselves when the poor Penan couple has to resort to borrowing from friends to pay the RM180.00 medical fees demanded by the hospital,” said See.

Breach of rule

See said that by demanding that the couple settle the RM180 medical bill, the “concerned staff in Miri Hospital had breached its social responsibility.”

“The concerned staff’s action is in contravention of a circular sent out by the Sarawak Health Department in December 2008 about Penan patients and waiver or cancellation of poor patients’ bills,” he said.

According to See, the circular was clear about hospital bills incurred by the poor.

“It (the circular) says that the hospital bill maybe cancelled or waived if (the recipient fulfilled) the following criteria are fulfilled:

  • Monthly income of less than RM765.00,
  • Malaysian citizen, but Limbang Hospital can accept their IC receipt and birth registration receipt as temporary registration documents,
  • Those on welfare from Social Welfare Department, and (from) registered NGOs.

“The State Health Department has also requested the District Department of Limbang to help register the Penans so that they would not be mistaken for foreign nationals,” he said.

He pointed out that Miri Hospital should have waived or cancelled the hospital bills after Roy Dumai and Seri Yung had explained their financial incapacity.

“I just cannot imagine the hurt and disappointment this poor Penan couple must have felt.. they had just lost their baby girl and were subjected to needless criticism and humiliation for their financial hardship.

“Nothing short of a public apology from the Miri Hospital will suffice,” said See.

He said that he had sent a letter to the medical authorities asking for explanation and to conduct an inquest.


  1. When I was studying in Kuching, I fell ill and was vomiting profusely. My friends were kind enough to rent a car, and drove me to the city. A 24 clinic had no doctor. I was on the floor throwing up into a toilet seat when my friends finally decided to take me to Kuching General Hospital. At the Emergency area, I was squirming in pain and the staff saw me in that condition, yet still required me to fill in paperwork. The wait took 30 minutes before an impersonal medical officer finally attended to me. They put me on a bed, had me on a watch by an indifferent nurse, who merely watched as I agonized on the bed hoping for relief with water or something. The hospital made me vow never to be sick in Sarawak again. Sick government made the people working for them just as sickening. I despise the government just as much as I despise my relative working for LHDN who said that we are not suppose to criticize BN, because they pay our salary. Dumb idiot.

    Comment by oleester — October 20, 2011 @ 10:45 AM | Reply

  2. The so called free service that Barisan Nasional is so proud of is horrible, especially at Kuching General Hospital. I was with my mom for three weeks until she died on September 16th 2006. One of the reasons why I am so sickened with Barisan Nasional Administration telling folks to vote for them and yet they care not about the basic necessity of human needs. I hope Radio Free Sarawak will air this topic as well and I would be the first one to speak up.

    I have described the conditions so many times. I wish I had taken pictures of the living conditions and how most of the medical staff were indifferent to their patients. The head nurse or Sister which my sister-in-law and I called “Broom Hilda” was so mean who told me that it was my job to clean my mother even though we had a hard lifting her up. We stayed in the hospital and slept on the concrete floor just so we could care for our loved ones and there were many out of town folks who have no money or any other place to stay, stayed with their love ones in the hospital. A 15 year old boy from Miri stayed with his mom and it was his job to carry his mother to the lavatory because the hospital staff was just not there to do the job.

    My brother Numpang had to ask the staff to administer IV after my mom’s operation. Her bandage was never changed to the day she died. The provider of the pin for the broken bone which cost us 3000 ringgit, kept on pestering us for instant payment. They called us again as we ferried my mom’s coffin across Sadong River. Instead of bothering with bedpans or diapers they used catheter on patients which caused bladder infection on my mom and others even though I brought a suitcase full of diapers with me from the US. Note: We were not around when the ambulance took her from Asa Jaya straight to SGH in Kuching. We wanted to move my mom to a private hospital and were advised against it by the medical staff and who told us that if she got worse the private hospital would send her back to SGH.

    My mom developed a breathing problem after the operation and there was one nebulizer to serve the whole ward. When someone else needed the nebulizer, they had to take the one my mom was using. In the US a nebulizer cost only $200USD.

    There was one bathroom on the floor to serve both male and female patients as well as their caregivers. The bathroom was very dirty and the toilet was leaking. The leaks from the bathroom upstairs also dripped to our bathroom floor. The bathroom badly needs some kind of repairs and paint jobs.

    I suppose the type of treatment given to patients in SGH was pretty much depending on the patient’s status. As soon as my sister-in-law mentioned that PETRONAS was looking to hire a nurse and that she was the HR Manager, we got a lot more attention and Broom Hilda was not so mean to us.

    In January this year, I took my daughter to the clinic in Simunjan. She was 3 months pregnant. When we were admitting her, some of the staff were making faces at us and down right rude and all of them were Malays. They told my daugher that they could not hear the baby’s heartbeat. My daughter was very upset and burst into tears! Eventually a Chinese doctor came to administer the ultra sound properly and to our relief we could hear the baby’s heart beat. Note: Xavier Suntai Richmond is now a healthy 4 month old baby.

    Barisan Nasional Administration should make it a policy to hire nurses and medical staff based on their genuine caring attitude and not based on race or whom they know. From my observation, the staff was rude and did very little work of care giving which to me, they were not there as a genuine caregivers but rather it was just a job to “cari makan.”

    Comment by Christina S. Suntai — October 19, 2011 @ 9:27 PM | Reply


    Comment by SAD — October 19, 2011 @ 3:46 PM | Reply

  4. YB, you are too good a man. You should not only asked for a public apology. We, the rakyat of Sarawak DEMAND that those responsible should pay for such shameful actions. This will be a reminder to those tasked in such a position to be more humane and civic minded.

    Comment by Sir Noet — October 19, 2011 @ 3:23 PM | Reply

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