GEORGE TOWN: The upgrading works for 10 operation theatres in the Penang Hospital were supposed to be completed in February but work is still in progress.
Patients who need surgery are on a long waiting list and some of them are forced to travel across the Penang Bridge, and even to other states for their surgery.
Those who could not wait for their turn borrowed money to have their operations in private hospitals.
Penang Hindu Association deputy president P. Murugiah, who is also the coordinator of the Sivasanta Derma Clinic, said he got to know about the situation during a free clinic for the poor.
“Some patients who came to our clinic told me that they have to wait for six months and even more before they could proceed with their heart surgery.
“My contacts at the hospital said 10 operation theatres undergoing upgrading works are meant for major operations, and now, many patients have to be sent over to the mainland for heart and eye operations,” he said yesterday.
He also claimed that he learnt about some poor patients who have to borrow money from banks or moneylenders to have their operations at private hospitals.
As a backup move, he suggests that mobile operation theatres be brought to the Penang Hospital.
Another suggestion is allowing patients with an emergency medical condition to seek treatment at private hospitals and the expenses be borne by the government.
A hospital staff, who declined to be named, said all the specialists are sharing the seven operation theatres located at the Ambulatory Care Centre (ACC) building.
“The operation theatres were meant for minor surgeries, but now, the surgeons have to use the facilities there,” he said when met at the hospital.
He admitted that with the limited facilities, the number of operations conducted became fewer but he stressed there were also other factors to decide whether an operation should be carried out.
He said that even if a surgeon has fixed a surgery date for a patient if their health condition doesn’t permit it, the surgery will still have to be postponed.
A family member of a patient who underwent a brain surgery due to blood clot believes that operations for emergency cases at Penang Hospital were not affected.
“My child was sent to the hospital at 1am due to a road accident and the doctor found out that there was blood clot in his head.
“He got his operation at 8am on the same day,” she said at ACC building.
State Health director Dr Wan Mansor Hamzah said statistics showed that there was no disruption to emergency cases.
“There is a reduction of about 30% on elective cases and this is due to some postponements in daily treatment cases and non-emergency cases,” he said in a statement.
He said during the temporary closure of the 10 operation theatres, all the seven operation theatres at the ACC building are operating all the time.
“Three operation theatres that are meant for emergency cases are operating 24 hours and the other four that are used for elective cases are operating from 8am to 10pm daily.
“Some elective cases will also be conducted at two operation theatres in Kepala Batas Hospital and one operation theatre in Bukit Mertajam Hospital,” Dr Wan Mansor said.
He explained that the 24-month second phase of Penang Hospital upgrading project, which started on Feb 17, 2016, involves five work scopes, including the upgrading of air conditioning system and electric system at the operation theatres.
“The operation theatres were handed over to the contractor on Dec 5, 2016, and they were supposed to hand over the facilities to the Health Department on Feb 18,” Dr Wan Mansor said.
“However, there were some defects in the original design and the contractor failed to comply with the current technical specification requirements.
“To ensure the safety of our patients and staff, the ministry has agreed to carry out some additional works.
“The project is expected to be completed on Dec 12.”