Thursday February 15

Best laid plans run awry
MGG Pillai

1:09pm, Thu: Why does the government continue to stumble over jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim's treatment for a painful spinal ailment? The cabinet at its weekly meeting on Feb 7 allowed his request for a German spine specialist to examine him. Deputy Prime Minister
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Health Minister Chua Jui Meng are in charge. And they drag their feet.

On Feb 10, Anwar's lawyers were told the specialist had to examine him within 14 days, but the Malaysian Medical Council decrees he needs a temporary practising certificate for which he must apply a month before he does. But the MMC cannot act without a dossier from him which must include much irrelevant information from the time he left high school to now, besides his professional attainments.

The Malaysian authorities assume a busy foreign medical practitioner must drop everything and rush to Kuala Lumpur because they want him to. As it is, the specialist in question, a Dutchman who practises in Germany, is on holiday. And it would take quite a few days, perhaps weeks, to assemble the dossier. It raises the ante for no reason but to harass.

This is on top of the five conditions imposed on Anwar by the Hospital Kuala Lumpur, some acceptable and some not. Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, declares them unreasonable, oppressive, unjust and politically motivated. Chua rubbishes Wan Azizah's claims and praises Malaysia's hospital facilities.

All this in the name of compassion. Chua gets into an unnecessary debate about the quality of Malaysian healthcare. This is not the issue. Nor that the prime minister and others in the cabinet had their cardiac bypass operations locally. Now that we do have excellent cardiac units in private and government hospitals.

The prime minister had a heart attack in the middle of the night in 1989, and had to have it done here. After that, no cabinet minister could have gone overseas without questions raised. We have more than adequate cardiac bypass facilities. But we have no specialist in treating spine problems as faced by Anwar.

No ordinary criminal

If the government was clear in its collective minds how it would handle the jailed Anwar, this irrelevant confrontation would not have happened. But it is unsure and uncertain how to.

As usual, the impasse happens because none in government studies the political fallout from this. The aim is no more than harass the family and any reprieve or concession granted grudgingly. It is therefore caught in a political maelstrom that centres on his imprisonment and how he is treated there and in hospital, and strives, often wrongly, to put him back into his prison cell and treated like an ordinary criminal.

But ordinary criminal he is not. The focus of the Malay unity talks next week centres, willy nilly, on his well-being and freedom. Any agreement Umno and PAS make must include his future. And if that future is still in his prison cell in Sungai Buloh, not just Umno but PAS could well be marginalised.

Why does the cabinet have to decide if Anwar should be allowed the German spine specialist? That neither the deputy prime minister and health minister would make that decision should point to Anwar's jailed presence in Malaysian politics. But neither wants to accept that, and thinks, wrongly, they could contain it by not thinking through what they want to do to him.

What should have been straight forward and acted upon by administrators of Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Sungai Buloh prison, and if need be the health and prisons departments, is now embroiled in political controversy. The cabinet is involved, and the government gets yet another black eye.

One man's compassion is another's repression. The government wants to put Anwar back into the prison straitjacket. He shows no sign of wanting to. From the start, the government miscalculated. And continues to. If it wants to retrieve some ground, Chua, if not Abdullah, should call in Wan Azizah and Anwar's lawyers and discuss what is achievable and attainable and not frame it in political controversy as is now.

From what I gather, talking to those who have visited him, Anwar is in intense pain. It does not matter how his problems began but it certainly was not from the fall from the horse, as government sources allege. It is more likely caused by falling backwards on to the cement floor when he was handcuffed behind his back and blindfolded as the former inspector general of police, Rahim Noor, beat him to a pulp.
Media Statement by DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang in Petaling
Jaya  on Wednesday,  April   18, 2001:

Chua Jui Meng should tender a full apology for misleading  Parliament
and the nation on  Anwar's health and German specialist Dr. Thomas

Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should tender a full apology for giving an untrue answer in Parliament yesterday about the health of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and German specialist Dr. Thomas Hoogland.

Chua told Parliament that he had surfed the Internet and said:
"Although Dr. Hoogland claims to be an expert in endoscopic surgery, we cannot find any literature written by him on the Internet  nor any of his publications on international medical journals."  (The Star)

Chua even said that Hoogland may not be a spine specialist claiming
that  extensive searches on the Internet and medical journals dating back five years showed no evidence of Hoogland's expertise. (The Sun).

I am shocked by such irresponsible statement by Chua, as during the
controversy over Anwar's health condition, I had last month visited
the website of the Alpha Klinik in Munich, Germany, which "specialises in minimal invasive knee and spine surgery" where Hoogland is the Director of the Back Unit -

I distinctly remembered reading materials about Hoogland's expertise as a specialist, and this has again been confirmed when I visited the website again.

Before helping to found the Alpha Klinik in 1989, Hoogland was  Staff
Orthopaedic Surgeon and Chief of the Residency Program in Ignatious Hospital in Breda, the Netherlands for a number of years. He graduated as a doctor from the University of  Groningen in the
Netherlands in 1972. From 1973 to 1978 he trained as an orthopaedic
surgeon at Cleveland Clinic in the U.S. and received his  American
Orthopaedic Board Certification. From 1978 to 1980 he  was Staff
Surgeon at the University Hospital of Groningen.

Hoogland had  performed over 8000 - including over 6000 minimal
invasive spine operations - during his career as a surgeon. In
addition, he had  published 22 scientific papers, contributed to four books and spoken at over a hundred congresses (including organising a number of them).

In addition, he was  a member of The German Society for Orthopaedics and Traumatology, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, The
North American Spine Society, The Scientific Society for Spinal
Microsurgery (of which I am President), The International Society for Minimal Intervention Spine Surgery and The Society for Spine Surgery Research.

I have not done any extensive search on the Internet, but a quick
search turned up a reference to an article by   Hoogland in  the April
1999 issue of SPINE (Volume: 24, Number 8):

"Wilke, H.J., Neef, P., Caimi, M., Hoogland, T., and Claes. L.E.
(1999) New In Vivo Measurements of Pressures in the Intervertebral
Disc in Daily Life, Spine, 24 (8), 755-762".

How then can Chua claim that "extensive searches on the Internet and medical journals dating back five years showed no evidence of Hoogland's expertise".

Chua should apologise publicly for misleading Parliament and the
nation on Anwar's health and Hoogland.

- Lim Kit Siang
Thursday April 19

The health minister and Dr Hoogland
John R Malott
Laguna Niguel, California

2:43pm, Thu: Somebody at the Ministry of Health has failed his or her ‘Internet test’, and Health Minister Chua Jui Meng should be embarrassed. According to your report, Anwar delaying surgery at his own peril, House told (April 17), Chua said that his staff had carried out a search on the Internet on Dr Thomas Hoogland and found nothing on him!

Your article quotes the minister as saying, "Over the past five years there has not been any literature on this doctor. If he is a specialist, he should have at least one or two reports in the medical journals." Chua also claimed that Hoogland has conducted only 300 to 400 surgeries.

It's a government official's worst nightmare. You end up looking foolish because your staff has not done their homework. So let's look at the facts, which actually are very easy to find.

First, the Alpha Klinik has a very prominent website - in six languages. As head of the clinic's back surgery division, Hoogland is featured very prominently on the site. Click on the section called "back", and there is a portrait of Hoogland, which describes his professional qualifications. This is a man who has published 22 scientific articles, contributed to four books, and spoken at over 100 medical conferences. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the German Society for Orthopaedics and Traumatology, the North American Spine Society, the Scientific Society for Spinal Microsurgery (of which he is president), the International Society for Minimal Intervention Spine Surgery, and the Society for Spine Surgery Research.

And although Chua says Hoogland has performed only 300 to 400 surgeries, the truth is that he performed over 8,000 - including over 6,000 minimal invasive spine operations - during his career as a surgeon.

Chua has every right to be embarrassed for misinforming Parliament. But there is a second issue. The minister has twice criticised Hoogland's alleged “lack of medical ethics" for stating, factually, that the KL General Hospital does not have all the necessary equipment, facilities, and experience to conduct endoscopic surgery.

Now, perhaps, Chua would like to consider his own ethical question: Is it right for a government's health minister to stand in his nation's legislature and falsely disparage the qualifications and experience of a prominent international surgeon?
chua jui meng
an idiot towkey