KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has called on the Ministry of Health (MOH) to investigate an alleged case of negligence by a doctor in the 18th rabies-related death in Sarawak.
Uggah, who is also Sarawak Disaster Management Committee chairman, said this was the second such case recorded in Sarawak where the doctor had allegedly failed to refer their ‘dog bite patient’ to the Rabies Clinic.
He pointed out that such case of negligence was very serious and should not happen, because it was imperative for the doctors to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) set by the Health Ministry.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences and sympathy towards the family of the victim as reported by the Director General of the Ministry of Health today.
“I felt really disturbed as I read the history of the case. It was reported that the doctor who had treated the victim, had failed to send or refer the victim to the Rabies Clinic in Kuching immediately.
“I call upon the Health Ministry to investigate this case and to ensure that the SOP that was established on how to respond to any cases involving dog bites, which include immediately sending the patient to the Rabies Clinic, has not been breached,” he said, when commenting on the latest fatality involving a 61-year-old woman from Pending.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement said the victim passed away at 10.47pm yesterday at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), where she had been receiving intensive care since June 8.
He added that the victim was bitten by a stray dog on her right thumb on April 29 this year when she tried to chase away a dog that was barking at her.
The victim washed her wound for about five minutes and immediately sought treatment at a community clinic near her home. Another appointment was then set for a week later, but she did not show up for the follow-up treatment as she thought that her wound had healed, he explained.
“On June 6, she felt sick and discomfort on her right arm. She went to SGH (June 8) and was immediately administered Rabies immunoglobulin (RIG).
“The next day, she complained of nausea, headache, difficulty to swallow water (hydrophobia), discomfort on her right arm and weak at her lower body,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement today.
To date, rabies encephalitis cases among humans in Sarawak since the outbreak of the disease was declared in the state on July 1, 2017, has reached 19, including 18 deaths.
From the 19 cases, three were reported this year. A sole survivor, a seven-year-old boy, was discharged from SGH early last year and is currently receiving treatment at home due to neurological complications.
The state Health Department has issued a notice to all medical practitioners in Sarawak to ensure the administration of animal-bite cases followed the guidelines that had been set for animal bite cases.
Cases with the risk of rabies infection or victims who did not seek follow-up treatment must be informed immediately to the nearest Health office so that the victims could be traced.
“To avoid rabies infection, the Health Ministry reminds the people to wash their bite wound with soap and running water for at least 15 minutes and immediately seek treatment at the nearest government clinic or hospital.
“The public must also avoid being bitten by dogs or wild animals considering that many areas in Sarawak are declared as rabies positive,” Dr Noor Hisham said.