On 18th June 2009, at 6pm, the MMA, the MPS and FOMCA were invited to participate in the NST-Live online chat with readers. The MMA was represented by the president, and 2 PPS representatives, Dr Rajamohan and Dr M. Mohan.
It was an excellent idea mooted by news executive editor, Mr Lee Ah Chai, who acted as moderator. But for me, it actually proved to be quite daunting and to some degree, showed up our ineptness in this new media of instant messaging and on-the-spot responses, when compared with the MPS (Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society) which came with full force, led by the indomitable president Datuk Nancy Ho, and past president John Chang.
FOMCA (Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations) was led by its president, Datuk Marimuthu Nadason. Still we managed to put some of our points across, although perhaps not with as much polish as we would like to have done. Perhaps, we can do this exercise on a regular basis (6 monthly?).
We did what we could, under the duress of time and small screen constraints (we had the tiny netbook, which makes it very trying for older eyes such as mine!).
We touched on quite a wide array of topics: some readers felt that private doctors were unprofessional for not reporting dengue cases; some felt that the official H1N1 flu reaction was overblown; Made in Malaysia medicines were also queried; and of course there was lively debate as to whether we should separate dispensing and prescribing soon, with many 'likely' pro-pharmacists calling in aggressively to question our stand.
Of course, MPS would like to see much more independent professionalism in the dispensing of medicines, which its members feel they are sufficiently proficient and trained at doing. While they share some of our concerns regarding unscrupulous dispensing without prescription, they are adamant that we view the larger picture and stressed that the more professional amongst them could perform a better and greater service for our collective patients.
A few readers questioned our usual practice of having many school-leaving (thus, unqualified) dispensing assistants (at most clinics) to give out medicines, without the professional knowledge to advise more expertly... I did not have the time to rebut that most of us doctors would have advised and detailed such medications, their effects and side effects, even as patients leave our consulting rooms--but perhaps more realistically, this may not always be the case, in some very busy clinics...
To be fair FOMCA under the lead of Datuk Marimuthu was quite impartial, urging for more transparency and information for the consumers, i.e. the patients regarding their fees, and breakdown of charges. Of course they are very concerned as to rising costs of health care and access for the common man in the street.
We ended up being treated to a dinner at Nandos, by the MPS, where we all agreed we should be more proactive at cooperating to enhance healthcare information, quality of services, and sharing of ideas. Indeed, it is good to work together, so that we can share our common concerns and also impart our professional misgivings, so that we all can benefit mutually, for ourselves as well as for our patients and the rakyat out there.
Friday's 19 June 2009 NST carries the following articles:
Doctors and Pharmacists disagree on Dispensing
MMA comes to doctors' defence
Malaysian Medicine gets thumbs up
Thanks and Syabas to NSTLive and the team of Mr Lee Ah Chai, Ms. Annie, and Cik Shuhada! (photos courtesy of NST)