I'm writing this
letter both as a concerned citizen, and as a member of the
healthcare profession who once served in this venerated hospital in
The tower block of Hospital Queen Elizabeth was a relatively late
addition being built in 1981 at a cost of RM20 million.
The tower block, as I remember it, housed the operating theaters,
surgical disciplines, the ICU/CCU as well as the First Class wards,
in addition to the Radiology Department.
On October 25, 2008, a mere 17 years after completion, parts of the
tower block of Hospital Queen Elizabeth were declared unsafe, this,
too, after it had already been suspect for over two years.
Services were distributed to ‘nearby’ district hospitals and ward
space was rented from a private hospital. Interestingly, this
private hospital had sold their previous building to the ministry of
health around three years ago and this is now the site of the Women
and Children's hospital and the Likas Specialist Hospital.
A short three days later, the Sabah chief minister declared that the
QE Hospital would be relocated to a new site. By November, the plan
appeared to have been changed to that of purchasing the private
hospital, no doubt for a premium, though no steps have been taken in
this direction either.
On Dec 2, a media report quoted an expert saying that a new tower
block would be the best option for the QE Hospital. Thus far, no
definite plan has surfaced; and I have no doubt that patient care
has suffered as a result.
The administration of the hospital and the state health department
should be held accountable for the lack of progress towards a
definite solution for the past five months or so.
Let's consider the last of three options first; building a new tower
block. A second tower was already proposed and planned for even in
2004. The reason for construction of the second tower was to help
cope with an increased patient load that the QEH was already facing,
and to bring it up to par with other tertiary referral centres in
The logic was simple. When compared to hospitals in Peninsular
Malaysia, where care of a patient can be transferred from state
hospitals to HKL or other referral centres via ambulance,
transferring an ill patient from Sabah to the Peninsular is both
costly and dangerous what with a three-hour flight.
Building a new tower block would necessitate the demolition of the
old tower block, which would invariably affect the stability and
safety of patients in the adjacent medical wards in the old 1957
Leaving the old tower intact while building the new tower is simply
asking for trouble. Where would these patients be moved to? At
present, there is no viable option to decant patients to a safer
area. Building the new tower after demolition of the old building
will also take up much time, during which patients will continue to
The new tower will not solve the bed shortage problem that has
plagued this hospital for the past decade and should not be
considered a long-term solution.
The second option is purchasing the private hospital. No doubt this
seems like a fantastic short- term measure. You solve the problem of
having no hospital by buying a ready-made building that has already
been designed as a hospital.
You have a new hospital at the stroke of a pen and everyone's happy.
However, I'm sure the cost of buying the hospital will be
astronomical and disproportional to actual cost of constructing a
There will be terms and conditions, I'm sure, that will ensure that
the private hospital moves out in stages, while their new building
is completed, and hence although you might end up buying a 200-bed
hospital, you might only get 100 beds for the next two years.
Another case in point is that private hospitals tend to cut corners
when they build and the facilities available, although impressive
looking, may be just that - impressive looking.
Renovations might have to be done to bring it up to specifications
and to the present level of new hospitals such as hospitals in
Ampang, Sungai Buloh or Serdang.
Finally, there is the option of building a new hospital. This is by
far the best option in my opinion but likely the most expensive as
well. Building a new hospital, preferably within the town or in
adjacent areas like Dongongon would be the perfect solution with
both ends of the town covered by either the new Hospital Queen
Elizabeth or by Likas at the other end.
There would be little sense in placing such a hospital far away from
Kota Kinabalu in a place like Kinarut or Tuaran. The powers-that-be
should plan for a hospital to suit the needs of the population.
Perhaps instead of a 600-bed hospital, build a 900-bed hospital with
proper facilities for sub-speciality services, better operating
theaters, better CT and MRI machines and a cardiac catheterisation
Steps could be taken to computerise the hospital as well. The plan
to build a cardiac centre should be forgotten for the time being and
steps be taken to sort out the mess that the main hospital is in at