KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — The federal private doctors body has backed medical consultants who insist that the police fired tear gas and water cannons into the Tung Shin Hospital during the Bersih rally a week ago.
The Health Ministry had initially defended the authorities before it yielded to public pressure and announced an investigation on Thursday into the incident.
The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) pointed out today that doctors had a moral duty to highlight violations of the sanctity of hospitals caused by “frayed tempers” during unrest.
“Such action by concerned doctors must be accepted in good faith as it is their duty to ensure that innocent patients under treatment must not be exposed to unnecessary harm or danger,” said FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow in a statement today.
“Not to do otherwise will be a dereliction of their professional duty,” he added. The FPMPAM groups seven state bodies that together have 5,000 members nationwide.
The Tung Shin Hospital board had on Monday informed Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai that no tear gas canisters and water cannons were fired directly into the hospital compound, which is located on Jalan Pudu, during the electoral reform rally.
The police have also denied shooting directly into the hospital compound after protesters had sought refuge there.
But a group of medical consultants had written to the media saying the police and hospital versions of the incident were wrong.
In the days following the alleged incursion, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, a former health minister himself, said the police had to fire tear gas near Tung Shin Hospital to protect its patients from Bersih 2.0 protesters who had sought refuge there.
Dr Chua said the situation should be viewed “in totality”, pointing out that the police would be accused of not doing their job had they decided against dispersing the crowd of protesters that had run into the hospital.
Liow has also said that shots from the water cannons had only brushed the edges of the hospital walls and blamed the wind for any tear gas felt.
“The federation certainly supports the action of these 11 senior doctors as they are voicing out their outrage and concern when patients’ lives are put in danger,” said Dr Chow.
He stressed that the doctors were reaffirming their stand on the sanctity of hospitals, which, he said, mirrored the government’s stand.
“As wisdom in hindsight, the area where the hospital is located should have been effectively cordoned off way ahead so as to prevent any spillage of the activities of the day into its compound,” he said.