On the one hand, Chua said he was sorry to hear of Raja’s death, who underwent five operations in eight weeks at Selayang Hospital and awaiting for the sixth operation, but in the same breath he could dismiss Raja’s death as inconsequential and would not affect public confidence in general hospitals, stating: "There are deaths in our hospitals every day".
Would Chua make such a callous statement if the victim was not a despatch rider but a Cabinet Minister or a VIP who had gone for an appendicitis operation at the RM540 million "techno-wonder" Selayang Hospital, the nation’s first paperless and filmless hospital, and ended up in the mortuary like Raja?
Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had advocated the "Look East" policy, no Malaysian expects Chua to emulate his Japanese counterpart who would probably have committed hara-kiri after visiting the family of the deceased to pay his penances, but the least Chua should have done would be to visit Raja’s family to express sorrow and apology as well as to extend the government’s compensation to Raja’s family.
The last thing anyone expected was for Chua to dismiss Raja’s death as inconsequential as having no adverse effect on public confidence in the public hospitals.
May be, after presiding as Health Minister over so many medical bungles and disasters where over 100 people died in the Nipah virus epidemic last year and over 40 died in the mistakenly-identified Coxsackie B virus epidemic in Sarawak in 1997, Chua has become insensitive to a single death.
Malaysia, however, cannot afford to have a Health Minister who is numbed or insensitive to a single death. Chua should should apologise and resign as Health Minister for his outrageous insensitivity over the death of despatch rider Raja Simmasalam as a result of an "inadvertent injury" to the small intestine in an appendicitis operation at the "techno-wonder" Selayang Hospital two months ago.
In claiming that Raja was given the medical care "that was humanly possible" and had received "the best treatment possible from a team of specialists", Chua was only further undermining public confidence in public hospitals.
Last Friday, Selayang Hospital director Dr. Rosnah Hadis had said that complications caused by the abnormal location of Raja’s appendix led to him undergoing five operations in two months.
During the first operation for the removal of the appendix in early May, the medical officer had discovered that the appendix was abnormally located. A surgeon was then called in and during the course of the operation, the small intestine was "injured" and it had to be "connected" during the same surgery.
A second operation was conducted to rejoin the operated intestine when it gave way. The third operation was because of a wound infection. Subsequently, when Raja’s intestine gave way a second time, the fourth operation was conducted.
The fifth operation was conducted to enable a procedure called an ileostomy to be carried out to enable the patient’s intestinal fluids to be released into a bag.
Five days before Raja died, Dr. Rosnah said the ileostomy was a temporary measure and there would be a sixth operation to enable the intestine to be rejoined and the bag removed.
From the account given by Dr. Rosnah, the picture was that the "inadvertent injury" suffered by Raja in the appendicitis operation was the cutting of the small intestine.
How can Chua be so cynical and claim that "everything that could have been done had been done", when Raja’s small intestine was cut during the appendicits operation and which failed to be connected in subsequent operations?
The Cabinet on Wednesday should discuss Raja’s death for Malaysians want to know what is the use of spending RM540 million to build the nation’s first fully electronic hospital, which is completely paperless and filmless and described as "techno-wonder" - when it could not carry out an appendicitis operation without casualty.
The Cabinet should admit government liability for Raja’s death and pay to the family a just and fair compensation to his family for the loss of their breadwinner as well as for their pain and suffering.