Malaysian doctors appeal to the Prime Minister
to repeal or review the harsh
Private Healthcare Services and Facilities Act
Star on line
Doc paid heavy price
A TRAGIC and grave social injustice occurred when Dr Basmullah Yusom was sent to jail for not registering his medical practice.
The Private Healthcare Services and Facilities Act (PHSFA) came into force two years ago, and since then, it is apparent that the authorities concerned have been actively implementing the regulatory aspects of the law.
The big stick came, as we feared, ironically for a tragic reason – when a qualified doctor was charged as a criminal.
When the PHSFA first came into being, private doctors jumped up in protest, only to be assured by the Health Minister and Director General of Health, that such laws were meant for the good of the nation, even winning the support of the then Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president, who was quoted as saying that the law “bodes well for the medical profession”.
The Health Ministry has broken its word of assurance given by both the ex-minister and current director general.
Newspapers reported that the Deputy Public Prosecutor from the Health Ministry had pressed for a deterrent sentence. Surely, this is again contrary to the spirit behind any law, to deal with an intentional criminal strongly, but to be lenient to a first-time offender.
The good doctor, who serves the poor and rich, the sick and the well, has to subscribe to four or more licences and fees, to practise these days.
There is the Malaysian Medical Council licensing, the PHSFA licence, the medical protection insurance fee, the specialist registry fee and the professional body annual fee and the MMA, the last being a social body, supposedly to look after his interests.
To charge and then allow the process of law to jail him, without warning him or giving him a second chance, is a grave social injustice that must be addressed urgently.
The swiftness of the legal and justice process, in comparison to other legal cases, is also befuddling.
He was charged on Dec 13, and sentenced on Jan 17, and of course, the doctor did not have the funds to pay the hefty RM120,000 fine and thus ended up in jail.
The observant reader would also have noticed that he did not have a qualified attorney and spoke in his own defence, which was obviously ineffective.
His clinic in Jalan Kampung Pandan was also taped in yellow, a very humiliating act by the authorities. This high-handed way of enforcement is not the way to handle a medical doctor, whatever his error.
Sadly, the guillotine has fallen on the medical profession.
Who will speak up for the doctor?
We appeal to the Prime Minister to repeal or review this harsh law.
Star online letters
Tuesday January 29, 2008
Explain why doc was sent to jail
I REFER to “Doc paid heavy price,” (The Star, Jan 25), about a doctor being imprisoned for contravening the Private Healthcare Act.
I recall “Ismail assures private docs over new law,” (The Star June 20, 2006) by the Director-General of Health that quoted him as saying:
“I want to give them the guarantee that we’ll be careful when enforcing the legislation, and that we won’t send them to jail for the slightest offences.”
It is thus very important that the Health Ministry clarifies what serious offence led to the jailing of Dr Basmullah Yusom.
The ministry has officially informed some doctors that the way their toilet door opens is in contravention of the Act; it should open outwards instead of inwards.
But if a patient faints inside the toilet and is accidentally locked in, it is easier to force open a door that swings inwards.
Furthermore, there is more space for the door to swing inwards into the toilet, than for it to open out onto a narrow corridor.
The Health Ministry had sent letters to the clinics_
in office complex blocks,
condominium shop houses
Actually those modern commercial complexes already have their own toilets, safety measures like safe emergency exits, fire extinguishers etc.
Actually Health Ministry should look and renovate its hospitals whether their various clinics, Out Patient Departments etc have separate clinics and back doors for each and every unit.
Although our clinic groups’ doors are big enough and I had witness the stretchers and wheel-chairs passed through easily many times but noticed that we may need to widen them according to the Ministry’s new guidelines. I still remember that the old hospitals I had worked had very narrow doors, my friend doctors and my overcoats were accidentally caught with those door knobs and torn many times.
Instead of just searching the easy-way-out by trying to push the GPs to handle the emergencies, Health Ministry should also_
upgrade its ambulance service to be quick and effective.
It should also upgrade its service by assigning only the competent emergency staff on the ambulances.
If could not introduce the helicopter squad for emergency at present, Health Ministry should start the Motor-bike emergency rescue service.
When we used to see the police-helicopters to control the crowds and cars, we hope Health Ministry should be allotted more budget to be able to serve the public with the Ambulance helicopters soon.
Unregistered clinic no reason to jail doc
Reuben Sher | Jan 30, 08 3:46pm
With reference to the media reports of a doctor being convicted for not registering his clinic,
it is completely meaningless that this registered doctor was fined a whopping RM120,000 for not registering his clinic.
And since he couldn’t come up with the fine,
he was sent off to serve a three- month jail term.
In April of last year, the Health Ministry director-general asserted that the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 was enacted to ensure private hospitals carry out their social responsibilities and was not meant to be punitive or detrimental in nature.
He and the previous health minister, Chua Soi Lek, further assured the medical community that since the Act was outdated, changes would be made and ratified by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. These changes have yet to be agreed upon or ratified but the Act has already been applied, leading now to a doctor being convicted on a technicality.
Will the DG now tell the judge that she should not have passed this type of sentence? Of course not, because that is not how the law works once an Act is passed.
This is the end result of laws that are not debated transparently or done so secretly or in a callous manner. Someone down the road will have to bear the consequences and this unfortunate doctor will now have to pay a heavy price.
This doctor’s ‘crime’ was not that he performed an illegal operation, killed or maimed a patient, cut off a baby’s arm or transfused HIV blood into a trusting patient. He apparently is a qualified doctor unlike some ‘sinsehs’, ‘bomohs’ or beauticians who masquerade as doctors and carry out clinical procedures.
His crime was a technical one. He did not register his clinic. His first duty would have been, like any other doctor, to see to his patients’ health. It doesn’t bear logic that not registering his clinic would kill his patient.
Many doctors were wary of the implications of these punitive punishments when Chua and the current DG were actively campaigning for this law. All their assurances that doctors will not be punished on technicalities has now come to naught as evidenced by the lop-sided punishment this doctor – who apparently didn’t have the financial means to defend himself – received.
Not only will his family will be left to fend for themselves but in all likelihood his career as a doctor may come to an end. This Act was passed in a rush and now has clearly been applied in bad faith.
Without doubt, this incident will only erode further the trust doctors will have on an already disorganised Health Ministry.
JB Edwards | Feb 4, 08 3:26pm
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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