Speaking at the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) dinner last night, Mahathir said that the people did not realise that the government was sincere in trying to improve the medical service when it announced plans to "privatise" hospitals, but "privatisation of the hospitals is not the solution as the issue will be used by the opposition to bring down the government instead".
What is significant in Mahathir’s speech is that this was the first time the Prime Minister had admitted that the government’s earlier plan was the privatisation and not just the corporatisation of general hospitals.
Until Mahathir’s speech at the MMA dinner last night, the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng had repeatedly maintained that the government had no intention to "privatise" general hospitals, but only to "corporatise" them.
Although the government has announced the shelving of the government’s "corporatisation" or actually "privatisation" plan for general hospitals, there is no guarantee that this privatisation plan would not be resurrected after the next general election if the Barisan Nasional is returned with a thumping two-thirds parliamentary majority.
In fact, it was because of the prominent role played by to Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, Consultant Chest Physician at Ipoh Hospital and an ExCo member of the Citizens' Health Initiative, in initiating public consciousness and opposition to the proposed corporatisation and privatisation of government healthcare that the Health Ministry has decided on Jeyakumar’s punitive and summary transfer to Sarawak from August 1, 1999, giving him only five days’ notice.
Dr. Jeyakumar, who is on medical leave, has appealed against the summary
transfer order, which smacks of victimisation and a gross abuse of administrative
discretion and power for his community work but the government
has refused to relent and rescind the transfer order.
This is not the first attempt to try to transfer Dr. Jeyakumar, as there had been two previous attempts to transfer him, to Kuantan and to Alor Setar, although both these orders were subsequently revoked.
Yesterday, I had asked in Parliament during question time
on Dr. Jeyakumar’s arbitrary and punitive transfer to Sarawak. The Health
Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng defended the government’s action and said:
Chua Jui Meng’s answer is completely unacceptable as it evades the whole
issue of Jeyakumar being a victim of gross abuse of administrative discretion
and power and the need for more consultative, accountable and less
arbitrary administrative procedures for staff transfers in the national
primary healthcare system.