Why is smoking allowed in Malacca Hospital?

Dr Narimah Nor Yahya
Hospital Director
Director's Office, Malacca Hospital

When I was visiting my uncle at the Malacca Hospital on Sunday, I realised there was cigarette smoke moving across the ward he was in.

That smell was in the ward for a good 30 minutes or more. And that basically meant, the patients in the ward and their visitors were subjected to this extremely obnoxious and offensive odour for that duration. Naturally I was appalled.

To the best of my knowledge of the law in Malaysia smoking is banned in all hospitals/clinics, airports, public lifts and toilets, air-conditioned restaurants, public transport, government premises, educational institutions, petrol stations, Internet cafes, shopping complexes and private office spaces with central air-conditioning.

Smokers flouting the ban may be fined up to RM10,000, or two years of imprisonment. That is how severe the law is for the people who blatantly and openly disregard this law.

Which was why I was completely flabbergasted by the attitude and apathy shown in this regard by your nurses and trainee doctors.

I proceeded to ask the nurses on duty (at about 2.15pm) why there was cigarette smoke in the ward (Block C, Third Floor), but they looked at me as if I had said something wrong or asked something stupid.

None of the nurses bothered to investigate and reprimand the culprit. They just sat there. I suspected the culprit could be a hospital employee (a public servant!).

When the nurses didn't do anything, I then asked a trainee doctor, who also looked indifferently at me as if asking "which planet did you come from?"

Another more senior doctor, when I approached him, then said, "Please lodge a formal/official complaint to the hospital director and the Health Ministry. You are not the first one complaining about this cigarette smoke. Many before you have complained. But, to date, nothing has been done about it."

That is what I am doing in this letter to you which is also copied to the Health Ministry.

The doctor's remark also basically told me that the problem has existed for a while and nothing was done about it under your watch.

The classic Malaysian apathy has just allowed the problem to continue!

Is Malaysia good only at setting policies but constantly fails to implement them?

So, my question to you as the hospital director and the good helath minister is this: What is the point of setting rules if no one is going to monitor them as see that they are truly implemented?

The prime minister talks about transformation, but the way I see it, no transformation will happen if we cannot first transform our mindset and attitudes.

Many civil servants today continue to display that "tidak apa" attitude without realising that it is the taxpayers who are paying their salaries!

As a taxpaying citizen of this country I am seeking an answer for what happened.

I am further saddened by the fact that the Malacca General Hospital is a tertiary (teaching) and specialist hospital.

What are we teaching our nurses and trainee doctors? That people can smoke in the hospital and go unpunished?

That the hospital can be filthy (the toilets, floors, lifts and corridors were filthy) and the patients and their visitors should just live with it? That nurses and doctors are not answerable to their patients?

The uncle whom I visited yesterday had lung cancer (and he was not even a smoker).

And the level of care provided by the hospital staff to my uncle is, at best, ridiculous. There was no care whatsoever. There were ants and cockroaches by his bedside. Do ants and cockroaches belong in the hospital?

For a teacher who has faithfully served the nation for more than 30 years, I am sure you would agree with me that he deserves better than that.