I had asked the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng to present a White Paper on the deadly viral epidemic at next month’s Parliament. I will now go one step further and ask the Health Minister to make public the White Paper latest by July 10 so that the debate on the White Paper would be the first item of Parliamentary business when Dewan Rakyat reconvenes on July 14.
Chua Jui Meng should get the consent of the Cabinet on Wednesday to move a Ministerial motion on the White Paper as the first item of parliamentary business on July 14, to express the nation’s sorrow and sympathy with the families of the victims of the viral epidemic, explain why the viral epidemic in Sarawak could not have been brought under control earlier after the first reported death on April 14 and what lesson his Ministry had learnt for future epidemic crisis management to ensure public confidence is never lost as has happened in the Sarawak viral epidemic crisis.
If Parliament can show paramount concern for the issue of the deadly viral epidemic which had been on a rampage for two-and-a-half months, which apart from its toll of 30 victims had also imposed a costly toll on the mental and psychological peace of mind of all parents in Sarawak, it would go a long way to restore the confidence of the people of Sarawak which had been grossly undermined by a series of bunglings and mishandlings in the crisis management, including insensitive and misleading statements by the Health Minister himself.
At a time when the deadly virus is still on a rampage, this is not the time for finger-pointing or blame-pinning. However, it is most regrettable that the Health Minister is not prepared to take all necessary measures to restore public credibility and confidence which had been undermined by the mishandling and pure bungling in the crisis management of the viral epidemic attack by humbly admitting the mistakes and the promise that they would not be repeated.
The Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng for instance cannot pretend that he did not announce to the nation and the world in a press conference on June 9 that the Health Ministry had confirmed that the killer viral outbreak in Sarawak was caused by a virulent strain of the coxsackie virus B, and when this was found not to be correct, he announced four days later the establishment of a three-man independent medical review panel to determine the causes of the deaths.
This three-man independent medical review panel was never heard of again after the announcement, and nine days later, Chua Jui Meng said "People should not be fixated on finding out the viral agent responsible but be more concerned about protecting their children from infection".
The lack of national and international confidence in the crisis management of the viral epidemic is best exemplified by the latest commentary on the only website in the world devoted to a close monitoring of the viral epidemic in Sarawak, which is maintained by the University of Nebraska Medical Centre.
The following is the latest update of the comment on the viral epidemic in Sarawak on this website:
"June 28, Saturday:
"Reported in the online Sarawak Tribune (http://www2.jaring.my/tribune/tribune/), Health Minister Chua said that Malaysia would not be declared a carrier of the coxsackie B virus. Also, Dr. J. Alexander (CDC in Atlanta) stated that the laboratories involved in this event will know the answer within a month's time: there is no delay, it just takes time to do this. And finally, the health authorities (none named) stated that the causes of the myocarditis cases could be coxsackie B virus, adenovirus, or EV71.
"We would note for the reader that all of the named viruses are not uncommon in the world. It is unclear to us what Chua meant by not declaring Malaysia a ‘carrier’, except perhaps to help calm concerns of the public. That ‘health authorities’ are stating to the press that other viruses may be involved is likely a positive step, in that it is perhaps the beginning of officially admitting that there is, as yet, no clear picture about the causes underlying the (non-HFM) illnesses and deaths. We, the authors of this page, have directly asked - as a laboratory whose research is directly involved with CVB pathogenesis and molecular biology - by email for eventual access to the strains of CVB said to have been isolated to date.
"We would also wish to support Dr. Alexander's comments - research does take patience and time, especially if one wishes to know the answer before one tells the world at large.
"From the large variety of emails that we have received from Malaysia, there still seems (I) to be some doubts about the actual diagnosis of myocarditis, and indeed whether it was myocarditis that caused the pediatric deaths, and of course, (II) there is no agreement on the agent involved in causing the deaths, myocarditis or not. The only positive information that seems to be developing is that the number of deaths and hospitalizations seem to be on the decline overall which itself would be very welcome news."
The University of Nebraska Medical Centre website on the Sarawak viral epidemic is in fact the first to point out the foolhardy action of the Health Minister’s announcement on June 9 that the Health Ministry had identified Coxsackie Virus B as the deadly virus killer, when it repeatedly said on its website:
"We believe that it needs to be made clear once again that at this point in time, we still - regardless of official announcements - do not know the identity of the agent causing these diseases."
The Health Minister should be prepared for a full debate in Parliament on the viral epidemic and to subject his personal take-over of the crisis management of the viral epidemic to public and Parliamentary scrutiny - and he should be frank and forthcoming enough to invite such a Parliamentary debate by moving a motion in Parliament on the White Paper on the viral epidemic.