Thursday, June 20

Bitter medicine


File photo shows the site of Hospital Sri Aman. In the Intensive Care Unit!

HE came, he cut a ribbon to commission a new scanner at the Sarawak Heart Centre at Kota Samarahan, he visited the site for a hospital at Petra Jaya, he peeped into the Accident and Emergency counter at the Sarawak General Hospital, he stopped at Samarahan Clinic, he talked about the construction of the Sri Aman Hospital. Then he returned to base in KL.

That was our new Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad’s first house call in Sarawak. He was apparently not pleased with the progress, warning that some stern action needed to be taken to deal with the problem of delays. He was told that the new hospital at Petra Jaya had only been partially completed since work on it started five years ago. Extension of time to complete the project has not helped. He was not confident that it could be completed within the next six months. Neither are we – and what’s going to happen to the famous hospital-to-be in Sri Aman? Another moribund patient?

Hopefully, the minister will drop in again and proceed to Simanggang. I know he has his hands full – 23 government-owned hospitals in the country need treatment. A busy doctor indeed.

In Sarawak, members of the public ask questions, why the delays in the completion of hospital projects. They want to know if the delays have been caused by shortage of funds and related causes like shortage of labour, etc. Is it because the two public works departments do not act in concert? A media report quoted a statement by the Sarawak Public Works Department clarifying that the construction of the Petra Jaya Hospital project, for instance, is under the purview of the federal department; its officers did not attend any discussion on the project.

As far as the public is concerned, this is a problem between two departments – delegation of powers or authority or even devolution of powers and authority over matters relating to supervision and certification of works done, etc. All these could have been thrashed out and made abundantly clear as to who should be responsible for what. All these could have been sorted out right from the beginning – before the tendering process even started.

The buck should stop somewhere either at the desk of the Sarawak JKR or that of the federal JKR.

Members of the public put their trust in ‘the authorities’ to do a proper job, and they need the services from a hospital at the end of the day. They are not concerned with the problem between the Sarawak public works and the federal public works. To them they are both JKR (Jom Kerja Rajin).

Again and again, they have heard about the government’s intention to take stern action against contractors, who have failed to fulfil their part of the bargain. But there seems little that the authorities have been doing in this regard. The people keep quiet because another warning is not necessarily the last.

The people are simply fed up. However, they pin their hopes on the newly-formed government, whose chief has repeatedly promised to observe the rule of law for good governance.

In any case of a breach of contract over a government funded project, it would add credence to that government if the rule of law would be strictly observed by both parties – government and contractor.

Either party in breach of terms and conditions of the contract must bear the responsibility and made to pay for the breach. A good government does its part of the bargain for its own good if the present government regards Sarawak as a fixed deposit like the old regime did.

Perhaps, next time he drops in, the minister must make time for Sri Aman. That hospital is needed badly. The good folk of Simanggang have been waiting for it for many years now.

Hopefully, the sick project will get the federal government’s attention and care as a matter of priority.

No promise was extracted from the minister as to whether or not the federal government would carry on with the project either at the present location as proposed or on an alternative site, at a more suitable spot elsewhere in that district. But the proposed hospital must be built there as soon as possible.

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