DAP calls for a Health  Bill of Rights for consumers to promote and assure health care quality and value to all Malaysians

Consumers Protection Bill 1999
Lim Kit Siang  

(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday):  For more than two decades, going way back to 1978, the consumer movement has been calling for a Consumer Protection Act to enhance consumer protection in Malaysia.

This explains the high hopes consumers place on the Consumer Protection Bill, but unfortunately, the government has not  taken full advantage of the long delay to come out with a bill which could be a model consumer protection legislation for other countries which put the people first.

The greatest blemish of the Consumer Protection Bill, which had been given as one reason why the government had taken such a long time to bring it to Parliament, is the objection of the Health Ministry  to incorporate consumer interests related to health.

The reason given that public interests are already adequately protected by the existing 47 health laws in the country, like the Medical Act, Dangerous Drugs Act, Poison Act, Medicines (Advertisements and Sales) Act, Private Hospitals Act, Telemedicine Act, Nurses Act, Midwives Act is not acceptable - for the same reason can be given as to why there is no need for the Consumer Protection Bill, as there are some 30 pieces of legislation on consumer protection although all of them have weaknesses.

It is most unfortunate that the Ministry for Domestic Trade and Consumer  Affairs has not been able to ensure that the present Bill can  confer consumer protection in the health care industry, when at an era of spiralling medical costs with the government secretly planning the corporatisation of hospitals - but which is kept under wraps because of the coming general elections, Parliament should go one step further in proclaiming Consumer Bill of Rights in the health care industry to promote and assure health care quality quality and value for all Malaysians..

Consumers, for instance, must have the right to access emergency healthy care services when and where the need arises.  There have been too many cases of loss of lives because this basic consumer right to health had not been recognized.

At the end of last month, for instance, the 18-year-old prefect of SMJK Jit Sin in Bukit Mertajam, Liang Thiang How,  was one such victim.  He was knocked down in an accident on his way home in Bukit Mertajam at about 9 p.m. the last Sunday of last month, brought to the Seberang Prai hospital about 15 minutes later, and his family complained that for over four hours, he was not given serious attention although he was bleeding profusely from his wounds. In desperation, his family decided to transfer him to a private hospital, the Gleneagle Hospital, but it was too late to save the boy who had lost too much blood.   This is a tragic and outrageous case - where a promising life was lost not because of a car accident but because of massive loss of blood as a result of the failure in Malaysia for the health industry to recognize the basic consumer right to access emergency health care services when and where the need arises.

Other Health Bill of Rights of Consumers should include the right to receive accurate, easily understood information to enable them to make informed health care decisions as well  as the right and responsibility to fully participate in all decisions relating to their health care.

In the final analysis, the core principles of all consumer protection legislation must be to protect the health,  safety, and the  environment of consumer

One issue I want to raise is to ask the Minister to explain what his Ministry has done to protect the interests of the consumers arising from Y2K-related problems

All along,  Year 2000  information and education have been primarily directed at                    informing business about the ramifications of Year 2000.  Consumers should also be the target of this education campaign, so that accurate information  is widely available to  the individual  consumer to  help ease the transition to the new millennium.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong