Why fires break out in public hospitals?

By Sharan Raj

THE second fire incident at a Johor hospital within the last four years exhibits the depressing conditions of our public hospital.

However, the career politicians in power have been dodging the fundamental reason for the poor state of our hospitals.

Every public hospitals in Malaysia are overcrowded so the hospital managements are adding more beds that the wards were designed to handle.

The additional beds increase electrical loading due more equipment and electronics being used, above the initial designed capacity.

The electrical cables insulator decays under prolonged over-capacity usage leading to exposure of the inner cable itself.

Exposure of the inner cable creates sparking under certain conditions, causing a spark fire that can burn the bed, curtains, linens and plastics, causing fire incidents.

Since 1990s, then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad continuously reduced taxes for the top 1% and super corporates, reducing public funds needed to build new public hospitals.

In October 1995, then finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, announced the privatisation of hospital support system (HSS), including the maintenance and cleaning hospital facilities, to private concession companies.

The private concession companies have been maintaining public hospitals 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 were the result of outsourcing the jobs to private concession companies.

Before 1996, each public hospitals had an in-house engineer, several technicians, cleaners and ward attendants conducting routine maintenance work to keep our hospitals in good condition.

The poor public hospital conditions are due to career politicians “overselling privatisation benefits” and consistent tax cuts for the top 1%.

There will be more fires and collapsed ceilings in our public hospitals unless these Mahathir-Anwar era policy legacies are not reversed immediately. – June 30, 2020

Sharan Raj is on the central committee of Parti Sosialis Malaysia and the chairperson of PSM Melaka.

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