Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 3rd August 2009:
Does Tiong Lai agree with WHO estimates that some 110,000 to 500,000 people in Malaysia would have to seek hospitalization in A(H1N1) outbreak, causing as many as 5,500 to 28,000 deaths, and what the Health Minister is doing about the looming national calamity
The A(N1H1) death list has shot up by another two victims from four to six – an 11-year-old boy who died at 8.30 am at Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Baru yesterday and a 10-year-old girl from Bagan Seri who died at the Bagan Seri Health Clinic at 3 am on Friday.
In New Sunday Times yesterday, the Health director-general Tan Sri Dr. Ismail Merican warned that the influenza A(H1N1) outbreak is getting serious and about to break out of its present “cluster” level into a community disaster.
There have been 39 reported new cases of H1N1, all involving Malaysians – bringing the total number of H1N1 cases so far to 1,429.
It is shocking and outrageous that at a time when the country is facing the onslaught of two killer epidemics, A(H1N1) and dengue, they are not the No. 1 priority concern of the Health Minister, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai who abdicated his responsibility as Health Minister to Dr. Ismail on the day-to-day management of the two killer epidemic outbreaks and to the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the macro level as Muhyiddin is the chairman of the inter-ministerial committee for H1N1.
All this abdication to allow Liow the time and energy in the past crucial weeks to go round the various states in the country with the MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat to prop up Ong’s stocks in the MCA power struggle with MCA Deputy President Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek which is why there are people who liken him to “Nero who plays with the fiddle while Rome burns”!
There are already grumblings that Liow is proving to be the country’s worst MCA Health Minister, definitely in the past 15 years when his two predecessors were Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek and Datuk Chua Jui Meng.
Liow should prove these critics wrong and the first thing he must do is to out of the sidelines and stop being a bystander in the national war against the two killer epidemics, by assuming responsibility as the commander-in-chief in the battle against A(H1N1) flu and dengue epidemics.
At a recent briefing to the National Influenza Pandemic Task Force meeting (July 27, 2009), Dr Tee Ah Sian, director of communicable diseases of WHO, painted a possible scenario for the Malaysian A (H1N1) pandemic.
For our 27.7 million population, if simply 20% are at risk and exposed, then some 5.5 million people will contract the A (H1N1) flu. Based on other serious influenza statistics, if 2% to 9% require hospitalisation then, some 110,000 to 500,000, respectively, would need hospital care.
If the case fatality rate is estimated to be from 0.1% to 0.5%, then some 5,500 to 28,000 of infected patients would die, respectively.
In the latest updates of the most seriously ill patients identified and confirmed infections, the global case fatality rate has risen from the 0.4% to 0.66%.
Liow should state publicly whether he endorses the WHO estimates and warning that some 110,000 to 500,000 people in Malaysia would have to seek hospitalization in the A(H1N1) outbreak and that there could be as many as 5,500 to 28,000 deaths from the deadly flu.
If not, what are Liow’s own figures and statistics. If Liow confirms that the Heath Ministry endorses the WHO’s dire warnings, then what contingency plans have Liow , the Health Ministry and the entire government devised to deal with a national calamity that could claim from 5,500 to 28,000 lives? What is he doing to ensure that these WHO estimates are proven wrong?
The second thing that Liow should do to take ownership and responsibility to spearhead the war against the two killer epidemics is to get the Cabinet on Wednesday to include targets in the war against two killer epidemics, A(H1N1) and dengue, as the seventh National Key Result Areas (NKRA)?
The Gerakan President and Key Performance Index (KPI) Minister, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon should give his full support in Cabinet on Wednesday to include the targets to win the war against the two killer epidemics in the NKRAs by the end of next year – with monthly as well as six-monthly targets.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor