Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the Sun: Gombak orang asli hospital director replaced

Gombak orang asli hospital director replaced
by Alyaa Alhadjri

the Sun, KUALA LUMPUR (June 7, 2010):
Changes are afoot at the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA) hospital in Gombak here, which was earlier dogged by allegations of mismanagement and providing poor healthcare for the orang asli.
In the latest twist to the chain of events which was sparked by a doctor's allegations against the then hospital's management - theSun has learnt that hospital director Dr Akmal Dahaman is being replaced, effective June 1, after less than three months on the job.

Akmal is believed to have taken time off to further his studies. His successor however has yet to be named and a source told theSun that an acting-director is in place to handle the hospital's day-to-day affairs.

Akmal was promoted to hospital director in March this year, taking over from Dr Saaiah Abdullah.

Subsequently, theSun reported that there were concerns raised by hospital staff, based on Akmal's "track record" during eight years of service as a doctor at the hospital. However, he was then unavailable for comment.

In a related development, a source told the newspaper that the hospital's outpatient unit has been closed down for "outsiders" - namely non-orang asli patients residing around Gombak who used to make use of services at the hospital.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) councillor Datuk Siva Subramaniam who in March initiated an investigation into the allegations raised, noted that the orang asli community feels "threatened" as the institution which was originally built to cater for their needs has since strayed from its path and taken over by people from outside their community.

The hospital's state-of-affairs has been the subject of media attention following allegations of orang asli receiving sub-standard health care treatment due to a purported mismanagement by Saaiah which was exposed by Dr Selvaa Vathany Pillai, a former medical-officer at the hospital.

It has been at least four months since the case first made headlines following Selvaa's participation in a press conference held at Bar Council on Feb 11.

Since then, there has been demands from various bodies including Suhakam and Malaysian Medical Association for investigations to be conducted by Health Ministry and ultimately implement changes that would improve the state of orang asli healthcare system.

Meanwhile, the leader of an orang asli group that staged a protest at hospital here on Feb 24 has came out in defence of Selvaa, who received a show-cause letter from the JHEOA for her alleged participation in the affair.

theSun previously reported that Selvaa, who is now based in Kedah, received the letter on April 19 for participating in a press conference held at the Bar Council on Feb 11 and for taking part in a subsequent protest led by Sokyen Man.

Sokyen has since told theSun that Selvaa was "never involved with the staged protest."

"The idea for the protest came solely from the orang asli after we went for the press conference at Bar Council on Feb 11," explained Sokyen.

Sokyen also questioned the reason behind Selvaa's show-cause letter -- as well as three other letters which theSun learnt had been issued by JHEOA from between February and April to the hospital's orang asli staff who attended the Bar Council press conference.

Recipients of the other three show-cause letters issued by JHEOA have apparently replied but there has been no further response from the department. Selvaa herself had refused to reply to the show-cause letter, saying it should have come from a higher authority.

The Malaysian Medical Association president David Quek in a statement on Friday said that both the show-cause letter and transfer order are signs that Selvaa has possibly been "victimised and punished unfairly" for her actions.

Quek also called upon the JHEOA and Health Ministry to stop using the civil service general orders as a tool to intimidate whistle-blowing government officers.

Attempts at contacting JHEOA for comment were unsuccessful.

JHEOA's director-general Datuk Sani Mistam and most recently Rural and Regional Development Ministry Deputy Minister Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun have on separate occasions reportedly denied all allegations lodged against the hospital management. -- theSun

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