THE recent announcement by the new Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramanian that the Government will spend more than RM900mil to upgrade Hospital Kuala Lumpur is indeed welcome news.
There will be extensive renovation works and several new facilities, inclduing the much awaited multi-storey car park and a new Women and Children’s Hospital.
I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to our world-renowned health institution, the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), which is situated along Jalan Pahang, close to HKL.
The IMR was established in1900 by Sir Frank Swettenham, the Resident-General of the Federated Malay States, to carry out scientific and sustained research into the causes, treatment and prevention of scourges such as beri-beri and many other debilitating infectious diseases then.
IMR is still the leading biomedical research institution in the country although several new research institutions have since been established.
The IMR is a regional player when it comes to biomedical research. It is the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s collaborating centre for ecology, taxonomy and control of vectors of malaria, filariasis and dengue. IMR is also the regional centre for research and training in tropical diseases and nutrition.
The SEAMEO-TROPMED Regional Centre for Microbiology, Parasitology and Entomology and INTROM, the Inter-Islamic Network on Tropical Medicine, are also based at IMR.
Over the years, the IMR has spearheaded several breakthrough research in the field of tropical medicine and biomedical sciences.
Recently, at the 24th International Invention and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) 2013, IMR won four gold medal awards.
The four IMR-winning projects are My Fungi Gene Chip by Dr Fairuz Amran, Diagnostic Technique for the Rapid Detection of Tuberculosis by Dr Rahizan Issa, Detection of Prognostic Biomarkers of Severe Dengue by Dr Ravindran Thayan and Improving the quality of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) using an IMR-developed Forensic Entomology Kit by Dr Nazni Wasi Ahmad.
The IMR serves as the research arm of the Health Ministry of Malaysia. Research programmes of the institute are geared towards the various identified priority areas, in line with the health problems in the country.
Research findings and results are used by managers and administrators in all ministries in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of programmes and activities for the diagnosis, prevention and control of major diseases in the country.
About two years ago, a major fire gutted one wing of IMR’s main building, destroying several laboratory units. Losses due to the fire have been estimated to run into several millions of ringgit.
To this day, the cause of the fire is still not determined but it is highly suspected to be due to an electrical short circuit and the malfunctioning of the fire alarm system.
The purpose of me writing this piece is not so much to talk about the fire but to appeal to the Minister to look into the delay in repairing the fire-gutted laboratories.
It has been more than two-and-a-half years now and the staff have been patiently waiting for the renovation works to start.
But until today, there is no sign of any repair work being done.
I do not know how many years it is going to take for the repairs to begin. Many of the staff affected by the fire have moved out while others have taken up whatever space that is available within the IMR premises.
Some laboratory units are now simply crammed with staff and lab equipment, and the risk of accidents has multiplied.
The staff are giving their best despite been confronted with all these risks and inconveniences.
As a renowned medical research institution, it is not fair to subject the staff to such workimg conditions.
This situation should not be allowed to continue for too long as it may endanger and demorilise the staff.
It is my hope that the Minister look into the plight of the staff that have been affected by the fire and to expedite the repair works as soon as possible. This will go a long way in uplifting the morale of the staff.
I have written this letter as a concerned member of the scientific community with no malice to anyone. I hope the Ministry views this feedback positively and takes the necessary action.
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