Malaysiakini Letter

Jailed doc: Health DG to blame

JB Edwards  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the letter Unregistered clinic no reason to jail doc .

It is with regret that medical practitioners learn of a doctor being jailed under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (PHFSA) for not registering his clinic. This is clearly not what was promised to doctors when both the current Director-General of Health Ismail Merican and the previous Health Minister Chua Soi Lek were all gung-ho about implementing an Act that was clearly poorly drafted.

When the PHFSA came into effect on Nov 1, 2006, there was great resentment and distrust among private doctors. Despite the misgivings of senior GPs, specialists, ex-DGs, ex-Malaysian Medical Association chairmen and even a senior judge both the minister and the DG ran roughshod over their objections in implementing this law.

Doctors still recall how Chua and the DG quickly convened a meeting when medical practitioners threatened to march to parliament. At the meeting, they promised various amendments to the Act. The MMA and other medical associations trusted the word of both the minister and the director- general and did not even push for all the changes to be in writing before the law was passed.

But today it is clear that the word and the credibility of the director-general means nothing as the regulation has now claimed its first victim, Dr. Basmullah Yusom, a USM graduate, registered with the Malaysian Medical Council with a valid Annual Practicing Certificate. He was fined an unbelievable RM120,000 and jailed subsequently for three months when he could not afford to pay this fine. He couldn’t even afford counsel.

Anyone, long enough in the profession will tell you that there are many medical practitioners who serve their communities quietly without expecting too much in financial returns. Unless the DG thinks nothing of the jailing of doctor, is this what the DG had in mind regarding the PHFSA? It is common knowledge among the medical profession who the real culprit and draftsman of this dubious act but the DG must now shoulder the ultimate blame.

That the Act was so badly drafted was plain to everyone but the DG and the previous Minister. Chua went ahead and tabled it to a trusting parliament including his own Barisan Nasional colleagues. The minister despite being a doctor was more of a politician, and was probably playing to the gallery and consumer associations.

But the PHFSA was a highly technical and professional issue. The director-general should have forwarded his concerns but instead chose to also play politics.

Will Chief Secretary Mohd Sidek Hassan demand for the director-general’s resignation for misleading Parliament and lying to doctors about the implications and consequences of the PHFSA?

If we are going to have responsible governance, civil servants must be held accountable for their follies. The implementation of this vague and ambiguous act must be put on hold until proper discussions with all doctors affected by it are held.

It must be debated properly and transparently in parliament and implemented only if it is really proven that the current legislation is inadequate. New laws should not be passed just because someone had returned home with a law degree and has this sudden urge to implement a piece of legislation so that he can be promoted.

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