PUTRAJAYA: The private healthcare business has become so commercialised that even businessmen are setting up clinics to reap profits.
It has come to a stage where they are also hiring unregistered doctors and mere medical assistants to man the clinics, which usually operate round-the-clock.
Concerned doctors and patients have alerted the Health Ministry, which has acted by conducting raids on clinics.
So far, one such clinic operator in Shah Alam is awaiting trial, while five cases – two each in Selangor and Johor and one in Negri Sembilan – are being investigated.
Many other clinics are under watch, including those in Sabah and Sarawak.
Health Ministry Medical Practice Division director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub, who confirmed that more raids were being planned, said businessmen were using doctors as proxies to register clinics.
This contravened the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, which clearly stipulated that only qualified doctors can set up clinics.
“Some of these businessmen have even opened a chain of clinics,” he said in an interview.
Dr Mohd Khairi said the “proxy” doctors in clinics where non-medical practitioners operated should realise that they were also guilty, as their names were used to register the clinics.
“The unscrupulous businessmen might get off scot-free as the law is silent on their participation in the business,” he added.
Last month, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican warned that clinic operators would be held liable if they employed those unqualified to treat patients.
This followed a report that a medical assistant at a government clinic in Johor Baru had been moonlighting as a locum, earning about RM40 an hour in private clinics.
He was arrested after allegedly having molested a housewife.
Dr Ismail then reminded doctors to display their annual practising certificates at clinics so that patients would not doubt their status as qualified medical personnel registered with the Malaysian Medical Council.
However, this advice seems to have gone unheeded, as checks by The Star at clinics in Puchong and Petaling Jaya on Friday night revealed.
At the Puchong clinic, there were rows of patients waiting to be treated, all seemingly unaware of the concerns being expressed on the way some clinics were managed.
When our reporter identified herself and asked the clinic assistant for the doctor's medical practitioner’s certificate, the doctor appeared to say that the “owner of the clinic” was keeping it.
“But I can produce a copy of my certificate which is in my car,” he said.
Asked why he had not displayed the certificate in the clinic as required, the doctor said it was not his duty to do so as he had given copies of his documents to the “owner.”
“I do not display my certificate at this clinic or any of the other clinics (I work in) as I am paid on an hourly basis.
“It is impractical to do so but I carry a copy of the certificate wherever I go just in case enforcement officers turn up,” he explained.
The doctor said there was a lack of enforcement by the ministry, citing as an example a nearby clinic which had been run by a bogus doctor for years.
He said the matter came to light when a doctor who was ill went to the clinic for treatment.
He called on ministry enforcement officers to act without fear or favour to weed out the menace.
At the clinic in Petaling Jaya, the doctor in attendance, who claimed to be a locum, was dressed in jeans and slippers.
He was not very keen to take a blood pressure reading, saying “the young should not be worried.”
His actual “status” remains a mystery.
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