Botched PHFSA – why the Director-General of Health must resign

by EJB

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. The PHFSA was regarded as an insult to their integrity and demeaning the profession. Many were distrustful about the implementation of a haphazardly written law by a ministry known primarily for its incompetence.

Despite the misgivings of senior GPs, specialists, ex-DGs, ex-MMA chairmen and even a senior judge such as Datuk Mahadev Shankar who was an authority on medico-legal proceedings, 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 Malaysian Medical Association (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 a 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 for this dubious Act is at the Ministry of Health, 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.

The KSN, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan commented today that the “benevolent public official of I know-what’s-good-for-you” attitude does not and will not work in these times anymore”. Will the KSN, who has promised to clean up the civil service demand for the Director-General’s resignation for misleading Parliament and lying to doctors about the implications and consequences of the PHFSA. I am certain even BN parliamentarians must have been aghast at what they have done. Their reaction would surely be “Mana kita tau? Kita harap Menteri sama DG lah”. If we are going to have responsible governance, civil servants must be held accountable for their follies. “Tak Tau” or “Cannot remember” will not do. Tan Sri Sidek would do well by calling up the DG of Health as to how such a poorly drafted Act was presented to parliament in the first place? I am certain the government wouldn’t have passed an Act that would criminalize a registered doctor let alone send him to jail? And no government would like to be made a fool of either, as is the case here.

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 necessary that current legislations prove 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. Civil servants should be vigilant about the promulgation of regulations that can have far reaching implications on especially highly technical professions.

  1. #1 by palmdoc on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 7:27 am

  2. #2 by merdeka on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 7:55 am

    YB Lim,

    Make it big, make it loud. Print it out & distribute to the public. Create awareness !!!!!!

  3. #3 by vehir on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 7:55 am

    The DG should resign immediately. He is holding to his position on contract basis. Why are there no better qualified person to hold this position.

    What the DG has been doing all this while? Was he playing golf daily? Or going on visiting foreign countries to uplift the health system?

    The Indians does not like the DG totally. He was the stupid fellow who stopped many students who wanted to be a doctor who supported together with sex video Chua in derecognising the Crimea State Medical University(CSMU), Ukraine.

    Do you think the Indians the Chinese and Malays who wanted to send their childrens to CSMU in 2004 want to vote for the coming general election. No way?

    The BN government must reinstate its recognition. Dont derecognise a medical university having WHO status when more Indians are studying there. This clearly shows ethnic cleansing and marginalisation.

    Its very difficult to get a medical seat in Malaysia, why deprieve a student going overseas on their own expenses. At last they have to come back and serve the country. Why Why Why should they do this?

    BN government did not go and derecognise medical universities in Indonesia, Pakistan, in the Middle East countries. Why they are muslim countries.

  4. #4 by vehir on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 7:59 am

    The DG’s post must now be filled by an Indian. Indians must be given more high ranking post in the government sector.

    There are more qualified Indian Doctors to hold this position. Will the BN government will let go the post being dominated by Malays and now give to the Indians to hold the DG post?

  5. #5 by UzMiNoOnist on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 8:05 am

    The blame squarely rest on BN law makers and the ‘whip’ system.

    This is what Malaysian get when we voted a bunch of incompetents that occupied more than 90% of the seats in the parliament.

    The other factor is the BN ‘whip’ system, which prevents resentment. It is like inbreeding of a family of morons that could only produce moronic offsprings.

    So do brace ourselves for more defecting laws and selective prosecutions, or you know what to do in the coming GE.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 8:26 am

    Ah Ting going to set up Ah Chuan as Health Minister
    MCA secretary-general Datuk Ong Ka Chuan is not expected to recontest Batu Gajah, where he lost in the last general election, but will move to a safer seat in the coming general election.

  7. #7 by drngsc on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 9:21 am

    Hi friends,

    this act PHCFS Act was pass in 1998, under the watch od Dato Chua Jui Meng. He is the one ( now he is a minister of the word of God ), who did all the harm. We were told that we could not amend the Act without going back to parliament. What is interesting, Kit, is that there were opposition MPs when the bill was tabled in 1998, and the Hansard showed that there was little debate. If I am not wrong ( we check the Hansard ), three MPs spoke up. Non to object. Two from BN and one Dr Tan Seng Ngeow from DAP ( Kepong ). All asked for clarification.
    I would like to ask saudara Lim KS, how can we prevent a repeat. There are three more important medical Acts coming ( I am told ). The amendments to Medical Act 1971, the Medical Devices Act, and the TCM Act. The other MCO Act is still being drafted. Let us not get surprised and ambushed. How can we work together to prevent any more ” terrible ” Acts being passed? We surely cannot trust the Barisan boys to be fair??
    We are still trying to get amendments out to the PHCFS regulations 2006, amended, but that will not stop a repeat of what happened to Dr Basmullah.
    Think about it.

  8. #8 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 9:59 am

    Don’t bet on that.

    Our BN and their agents are incredibly ingenious in coming out with new regulations and acts to tax all professions and products. Every one of them is an easy money-spinning revenue, specially created for some fortunate politicians or ex-politicians and their relatives and cronies.

    We consumers have been paying through our noses for many things, e.g., security labels, imposed by BN and their agents.

    Poor services are the hallmarks of BN. Already we have to pay a lot for clean water. Very soon, we may even have to pay for clean air that we breath.

  9. #9 by dranony on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 12:27 pm

    Support “Free DrBasmullah” campaign!
    1st doctor jailed by PHFSA.
    Download pdfs from:
    Fwd to All docs!

    Don’t Jail Doctors Poster Campaign

  10. #10 by raven77 on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 5:03 pm

    1. Perhaps PHFSA was developed or passed during Reverend Chua Jui Meng’s time. But he had the good sense not to implement it.
    2. Chua Soi Lek knew that the Act was outdated and had many defects ..and he should have rightly sent it back to parliment for rectifications instead of rushing a half baked act through parliment after conducting discussions in a secretive manner
    3. CJM is a lawyer. CSL is a doctor. As a doctor, he should do no harm first and this, CSL could have done by avoiding the implemention of a HP6 Act and then later trying to handle 101 complications… point saying surgery successful after patient has died….

  11. #11 by k1980 on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - 5:36 pm

    Medical doctor being jailed under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (PHFSA) for not registering his clinic but horny porno minister/actor got away without as much as a rap on his fingers for corrupting the minds of the young. What the…..

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