Mum of Malaysian teen who died from TB claims daughter was not treated in time

Anger and grief: Dr Lee comforting Teoh as she grieves for Carmen at Penang Hospital in George Town.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

GEORGE TOWN - "My heart is broken. Every time I close my eyes, I see my daughter, " said a devastated mother who lost her daughter to tuberculosis (TB).

"Her bags and everything are still lying at home. I know she didn't want to leave us.

"Why did this tragedy happen? Because of negligence, I lost my daughter, " lamented Vivian Teoh, 47, between heaving sobs.

She berated the Health Ministry and Penang Hospital, claiming her daughter was not treated in time.

Teoh was with her husband Yee Kok Kee, 55, and sister-in-law Christine Yee, 62.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye tried to console her, but to no avail.

Teoh's only daughter Carmen Yee, 19, died of TB on Aug 26.

When she first sought treatment at the Penang Hospital, Carmen was not warded.

Teoh told The Star that Carmen had what seemed like a normal cough and cold.

On Aug 20, her school called Carmen's father after classmates saw her coughing blood.

Kok Kee then took her to a private clinic where the doctor took an X-ray of her chest and diagnosed her with TB.

"The doctor wrote a referral letter and told us to take Carmen to Penang Hospital immediately.

"The doctor at Penang Hospital also took X-rays and sputum samples for three days. They confirmed on Aug 23 that it was TB but said it was a mild case.

"They gave my daughter medicine and asked us to take her home and come back after two weeks, " he said.

That night, Teoh said Carmen vomited "a lot of blood" and they brought her back to the Emergency Ward.

She claimed that the doctors still maintained that they could bring her home after giving Carmen more medication.

"The next day, my daughter vomited blood non-stop after dinner.

"We called for an ambulance. Twenty minutes later, someone from Penang Hospital called back and said they had no ambulance to spare.

"So we drove our unconscious daughter to hospital, " she said, adding that Carmen died in the intensive care unit without regaining consciousness.

Teoh pleaded with Dr Lee, "We hope you will look out for low level people like us. Sue all of them! We have to place our hopes on you. There is nothing we can do."

Dr Lee assured them that the Health Ministry would conduct an independent investigation into Carmen's death.

"The investigation will look at all aspects of the case, including the treatment rendered to the patient and any possibility of negligence.

"The investigation is expected to begin within these two weeks and will take one or two months to complete.

"The independent investigation will be headed by the ministry and will involve specialists on public health and TB all over the country, " he said.

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