PUTRAJAYA: Doctors have been assured that any enforcement by the Health Ministry under a new law compelling private clinics to adhere to certain regulations will be carried out carefully and judiciously.
Its director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican promised the ministry would also not tolerate any high-handedness by its enforcement officers.
“I want to give them the guarantee we’ll be careful when enforcing the legislation, and that we won’t send them to jail for the slightest offences,” he said in an interview here yesterday.
“I am sympathetic, and understand their grouses, especially the doctors with rather old clinics, and that they need time to upgrade their facilities and infrastructure.
“However, our latest survey of general practitioners in the country showed most of them have already complied with the requirements.
“Only a minority have failed to do so. We have given them six months to fully comply and are prepared to stretch this grace period to up a year.”
Dr Ismail said doctors had also known about the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act since 1998, when it was first passed by Parliament, and that they already had eight years to voice their opinions about it.
“If there are provisions we are not comfortable with, we may amend these later,” he said.
Dr Ismail was commenting on a report that doctors were opposed to the Act, which provided for, among other things, hefty fines for offences, which made them look like criminals.
Under the new law, doctors are liable to fines of up to RM300,000 or a jail term of up to six years, or both, if they failed to have their clinics licensed or registered.
There was also a provision for private medical clinics and private dental clinics to have a system to deal with basic emergency services.
Dr Ismail said the ministry would not compromise on the requirement for basic emergency services to be put into place.
“They must be prepared to assist patients seeking emergency care,” he said.
“We are not asking them to provide incubation or even other emergency procedures. But they must be able to check the patients’ blood pressure, pulse, provide drip and refer to them to other hospitals.
“They cannot brush off the patient and say sorry they cannot provide these services.
“For those who have forgotten the principles of ABC (airway, breathing and circulation), this is the time to re-learn it.”
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