No medical malpractice in elderly accident victim’s case — Deputy Health Minister

Dr Lee Boon Chye (source:

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Jan 9: There was no medical malpractice in the case that was reported by DayakDaily on Jan 5 under the headline ‘Elderly accident victim dies while waiting for 3 days to be operated on’.

In stating this, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, however, highlighted the need for major improvement and enhancement in perioperative management and care skills for surgical patients in public hospitals.

Dr Lee revealed that according to the report from the Sarawak Health Department (JKM), the patient was admitted to Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) on Dec 10, 2018, and scheduled for operation the next day.

“The operation was, however, postponed because the operating theatre was busy and the operation was rescheduled for Dec 13, but the patient had chest discomfort and abnormal ECG (electrocardiogram of the heart) and found to have a heart attack on the day of surgery (Dec 13),” he told DayakDaily when contacted today.

Even though there was no medical malpractice, Dr Lee, however, emphasised the need for public hospitals to enhance perioperative care and management to ensure delivery of quality, safe, efficient care to surgical patients, especially those with high-risk, complex and critical care needs.

“Patients having to wait for surgery is common, but there must be reasons to perioperative delays, and congestion in the hospital as well as patient’s conditions need to be optimised and stabilised prior to surgery can be issues causing surgical delays,” he explained.

Dr Lee had called on JKM to immediately conduct a thorough probe into the case not long after DayakDaily published the story, which was highlighted by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) National Women vice-chief Voon Shiak Ni in a press conference on Jan 5.

According to Voon, the 80-year-old accident victim, whose legs were crushed and had to undergo an operation, had fasted for three straight days after his scheduled surgery was put on hold due to last-minute emergency cases.

However, after all the waiting in agony, the octogenarian died. Voon, thus, highlighted that due attention during perioperative care must be observed and properly coordinated for high-risk patients as it was crucial to saving lives.

SGH director Dr Chin Zin Hing has provided assurance that the hospital would ensure efforts to provide perioperative care to patients.

“We have submitted a report on the case to the State Health Department and we would conduct an internal inquiry,” he said when contacted.

Meanwhile, Voon pointed out that perioperative delays could lead to multiple problems, especially for patients with high-risk and critical needs.

“The main reason in which the family allowed us (PKR) to bring up this issue was to urge for an investigation into this case because having an elderly patient who had injuries to fast for three days and put on standby for an operation was irrational.

“The family revealed that the ECG taken was reported to be normal on Dec 10, when he was admitted after the accident,” she said.

Voon, however, stressed that the family who had lost their father and grandfather did not want to pursue the case or cause any inconveniences to the hospital authority but strongly hope that the probe conducted would highlight problems that needed to be improved, especially in aspects of perioperative care, to improve patient safety and recovery.

“Efforts are needed to manage scheduled operations to reduce the prevalence of perioperative delays so as to save more lives.

“Nevertheless, we must give credit to the hospital for responding to the matter promptly,” she concluded. — DayakDaily