The second fire incident at Johor Baru hospital within the last four years exhibits the depressing condition of our public hospitals.
The career-politicians in power have been dodging the fundamental reason for the poor state of our hospitals.
Every public hospital is over-crowded. The hospital management have added more beds than the wards were designed to take.
Additional beds leads to increased electrical loading from more equipment being used, and the cable insulation will decay under prolong over-capacity, creating sparking under certain conditions which can cause fires.
Since the 1990s, then prime minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had continuously reduced taxes on the top 1% and super-corporates, reducing the amount of public funds needed to build new public hospitals.
In October 1995, then finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced privatisation of the hospital support system, including maintenance and cleaning, to private concession companies.
The companies have been maintaining public hospital at the very bare minimum to minimise cost and maximise profits.
The poor state of our hospitals such as dirty walls, broken ceilings, damaged lifts, broken windows and unpaid cleaners is the result of outsourcing to private concession companies.
Before 1996, each public hospital had an in-house engineer, several technicians, cleaners and ward attendants conducting routine maintainance, keeping our hospitals at best condition.
Their poor condition today is because career-politicians “over-sold” the privatisation benefits, as well as providing tax cuts for the top 1%.
There will be more incidents in our public hospitals unless the legacy of Mahathir-Anwar-era policies are reversed immediately.
Sharan Raj is a central committee member of Parti Sosialis Malaysia
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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