The Sun just published some bits of an interview I had with Ms Karen Arukesamy.
The Sun, Tuesday, 05.01.10
Docs circulating SMS about 1Malaysia clinics protest
PETALING JAYA (Jan 4, 2010): A text message via the short-messaging-service (SMS) is circulating amongst private doctors on a proposed placard protest to be held within the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) compound, against the government’s 1Malaysia clinics.
The SMS also states that the MMA will lodge an official complaint to Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) against the Health Ministry and a police report against "illegal 1Malaysia clinics for doping the public."
When contacted MMA president Dr David K L Quek told theSun today that he was aware of the circulating SMS.
"I am aware of it. It is not from MMA but from some doctors, who are dissatisfied and unhappy with the setting up of the 1Malaysia Clinics to be manned by health assistants and staff nurses. Nothing will take place unless we agree to it," he said.
"Many of the general practitioners are very unhappy to see that the government is shifting down the tasks. We are not against the poor getting free treatment but there are long term implications to it."
On Dec 16, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had announced that 50 1Malaysia community clinics, which will be launched simultaneously on Thursday, will begin operation this month to provide fast basic health treatment for urban poor residents.
Liow said it will save patients’ waiting time to seek treatment for minor ailments and will help to reduce the outpatient load at the accident and emergency units.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had announced an allocation of RM10 million under Budget 2010 for the community clinic programme.
The clinics, which will be opened from 10am to 10pm daily, will be managed by a medical assistant and a nurse and would be at locations easily accessible by the public in residential areas with a population of more than 10,000 people.
However the community clinic programme was not welcomed by MMA and private doctors.
Emphasising that policy shifts should include greater dialogue with doctors as their potential livelihood and practice will be affected, Quek stressed that most of the general practitioners are very upset and angered by this move.
Quek said the government cited other countries as having implemented similar community clinic programmes, but noted that most of the medical assistants and nurses there hold bachelors' degrees and extra diplomas specialising in certain medical fields.
"But here, a lot of them are just SPM holders who attend a three-year-course They may not have enough training in handling certain cases," he said.
Reiterating that MMA is not opposed to the poor getting free and good treatment for health and medical needs, he said: "The poor deserves good treatment and there should not be shifting of tasks, just because they cannot afford it."
"Our concerns are more in principle that we should utilise more doctors and indeed enlist the special expertise of the medical assistants and experienced nurses together but under direct supervision of a doctor in any clinic, but inline with their training," Quek said.
He urged the government to consider the plights doctors who have been trained at huge expense, parents who have spent enormous amounts of money to ensure that their children can become doctors, and who may in the near future have not enough work to do.
"MMA is naturally concerned about these graduates," he said, adding that it does not want things to go to the extent where the doctors are marginalised.
Quek noted that it is projected that by 2015, the country may have as many as 35,000 to 45,000 doctors.
He said MMA has worked very closely and cooperated with the Health Ministry over many issues, and it is "not simply opposing, just out of spite".
"As a president elected to serve the members, I have to answer to their plight and misgivings, although as a specialist I am not at all affected at all by this issue of 1Malaysia clinics," he said.
Quek said MMA hopes to work with the ministry to resolve this unintended crisis of confidence, adding that the Health Ministry has agreed to hold a dialogue with MMA at the ministry on Friday to solve the problem.