I had occasion to be at the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) of the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching last week when one of my relatives was admitted for treatment.
The experience left me feeling both grateful and sad at the same time. Grateful and full of admiration for the doctors, nurses and staff who work incredibly hard; and sad that they are required to work in such a challenging environment.
There are people standing around waiting anxiously for updates about their relatives who have been taken into a restricted waiting area.
In the case of my relative, it was a five-hour wait until she was admitted and warded. I was given to understand that the wait is sometimes longer than that and that the long waiting time and overcrowded waiting area is the norm in A&E. The place reminded me of a fish market, for want of a better term.
This is an area that needs special attention from the government.
The A&E Department is a place of life or death, and we all want life be the outcome, more often than not.
However the atmosphere in the whole area was one of stress and tension. The crowds of anxious relatives were in the way of the medical staff who had to make their way through.
The staff are doing their best but they cannot be expected to perform at their optimum if the environment is not conducive to delivery of efficient and effective A&E care.
We can expect that, with the worsening economy and reduction in purchasing power of the ringgit, more and more people who might have once gone to a private hospital will turn to public hospitals.
Nearing breaking point
In October 2016, Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya visits to public healthcare services are increasing and the record was quite high compared to the year before. How much more can the A&E cope with before it reaches breaking point?
At the last sitting of the Sarawak legislative assembly, we were informed that as of Oct 3, 2016, the progress of the Petra Jaya Hospital was 42.51 percent completed, when it should have been 78.18 percent.
On Oct 13, 2016, it was reported that State Health Department director Dr Jamilah Hashim said the new completion date was June 2017.
Two days later, it was reported that the JKR headquarters in Kuala Lumpur had revealed that the contractor had committed to complete the project by the end of 2017, but it expected that the contractor would apply for another extension.
However, it appears that work on the hospital has come to a complete standstill, apparently due to issues with payment. The minister concerned should update the people about what is happening there.
Meanwhile, I was informed that plans for the new car park block at the general hospital includes a better and more spacious A&E on one of the floors.
The project was supposed to start as far back as 2013, or even earlier, but has been plagued by countless delays and cost escalations. Why has this situation been allowed to carry on for so long?
The prime minister and his federal government have let us down in the budget despite all the promises made during the elections. I hope the state government will step in to expedite matters.
In the meantime, the A&E at the general hospital is in need of some emergency help itself and I urge the government to provide some relief to them pending the delivery of the Petra Jaya Hospital and the extension of the general hospital.
BARU BIAN is PKR’s Ba’ Kelalan assemblyperson and Sarawak PKR chairperson.