Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Need Hospitals For Our Hospitals

Are our hospitals stricken with cancer as we continue to struggle to complete their construction on time and on schedule?

Malaysiakini yesterday revealed once again, another botched up public infrastructure project by the Malaysian government. The Shah Alam Hospital was originally budgeted by the then Selangor state government in 2007 at approximately RM300 million (The Star, 15/03/07), was eventually awarded for RM482 million, or 60.7% above its original budget.

The project was awarded to Sunshine Fleet Sdn Bhd which had absolutely no experience in construction of buildings, much less the specialised skills required for a public hospital. The construction and commissioning of the hospital project was however fully sub-contracted to financially distressed Isyoda Corp Bhd in November 2007.

Isyoda was however unable to complete, and withdrew from the project and the company filed winding up proceedings against Sunshine Fleet before the case was settled out of court in May 2009. The project was subsequently awarded to another fairly new company, GM Healthcare Sdn Bhd. As reported by Malaysiakini:

However, it may be sailing into troubled waters, just as Isyoda did. GMH is also beginning to suffer from the huge amounts of advances and expenses demanded by the turnkey contractor, Sunshine Fleet. Sources close to the project said such appropriations of funds for “expenses” other than construction costs may “have an adverse economic effect on the project”.

The question that the public is asking is whether the project will complete on time by November 2010 next year, and what additional cost is expected to be incurred by the Government to ensure that the hospital gets completed. In addition, what assurance does the rakyat have that it will not be another hospital project which is “completed” but becomes saddled with poor workmanship resulting in subsequent years of delay?

Malaysia has already got a history of more than half a dozen of botched up hospital projects, and it appears that the Shah Alam Hospital will become another name on the long list which includes:

  • Kota Kinabalu’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (October 2008)

    Poor maintenance and planning led to infrastructure failure. ICU and surgical units were shut down. Several hundred patients were transferred out after three blocks were declared unsafe by engineers. It is learnt that the QEH management had reported the hospital’s deteriorating conditions as early as 2000. The Health Ministry was supposed to carry out maintenance and repair work on the hospital from time to time through its concession company, Syarikat Faber Mediserve Sdn Bhd.
  • Pekan Hospital, Pahang (June 2007)

    Scheduled for completion in 2003, the hospital was finally handed over to MOH in March 2007. Among defects found were leaking pipes, collapsed ceilings and problems with the main water tank.

  • Sultan Ismail Hospital, Johor (April 2007)

    In September 2004, the hospital which cost RM550 million was shut down for 17 months due to a fungus problem. 2 years later, large portions of the ceiling had to be removed due to structural inconsistencies. The company responsible for maintenance work at the hospital: Pantai Medivest.

  • Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Alor Star, Kedah (March 2007)

    Built at a cost of RM550 million, the hospital was opened 4 years after its scheduled completion date. Health Minister, Chua Soi Lek admitted that the contractors lacked expertise.

  • Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital, Sungai Petani (February 2007)

    Overflowing human faeces from a toilet forced temporary closure of an ICU unit at the state of the art hospital which cost RM450 million to build. A smilar leakage had occured in the hospital caferia due to a defective sewerage pipe. There were also collapse ceilings.

  • Ampang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur (March 2007)

    Scheduled for completion in 2004, the hospital only opened in 2007. The pediatric ward was fungus ridden, the ceiling were infested with fungi and the sewage pipes were leaking. Health Minister, Chua Soi Lek, said that glitches were to be expected in new buildings.
Despite the long history of such botched up projects, the Malaysian government has not learned its lessons and today, continues to award public infrastructure construction and building contracts of hospitals via direct negotiations, often to unknown or inexperienced companies.

It is completely unacceptable that the Government continues to benefit connected and influential individuals by awarding direct contracts despite the extensive list of failures, resulting in the losses amounting to billions of ringgit. What is worse is that the Government is now expecting the rakyat to pay for its follies by introducing various new and higher taxes such as the credit card tax, the real estate property gains tax and the soon to be introduced Goods and Services Tax.

I raised the Shah Alam hospital project in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Meeting yesterday to request that this on-going project gets thoroughly investigated before it becomes terminally ill. I received tentative agreement from the committee that the National Audit Department will be directed to conduct the initial investigations, and will report to the PAC on its findings for deliberation.
Post a Comment