Side Views

Health Minister, have you forgotten your oath and training? – Malaysian Doctor

December 13, 2013

There is a simple safety rule when assessing the risk of an environment: "one man down, is there danger around?; two man down, is it just coincidence?; three man down, stay away the danger is real!".

At Hospital Serdang, this can be applied by changing the "man" to "roof". Reports of roof collapse in the hospital are scary for both patients and healthcare staff. (Hospitals are, after all, considered a safe haven for anyone inflicted with pain or suffering.)

However here in Malaysia we are witnessing the opposite where a hospital poses a threat of inflicting further pain and suffering for one already in despair.

The Health Minister and the director general of Health Malaysia are keeping very silent about it.  And when they do speak at a press statement, they seem to have forgotten their basic training in Occupational and Safety Health.

All doctors are taught occupational and safety health. The health ministry even has a dedicated Occupational Health Unit and Environmental Health Unit in its Disease Control Division. The Unit has a guideline on how to investigate accidents in healthcare workers.

The occupational health principles are aimed at maintaining physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; protection of workers from risks of any factors adverse to health during employment; and providing an occupational environment adapted to the physiological and psychological capability of a worker.

The same principles are even stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Act which describes the role of the employer in ensuring the safety of workers. All doctors knows this and learned leaders among doctors should be exemplary in upholding these health principles.

The director general of health should be concerned about how such low standards of health could be encountered in his own institution. By now, the health minister, with all the health experts in his command, should have an action plan on how to protect staff and patients from the harm that the Serdang hospital poses to the sick and injured.

The plan not only includes repairs, but also identification of weak areas and risk reduction strategies for "near misses encounters" prior to the completion of repairs. Basically any healthcare professional would demand "zero tolerance" to near misses reports by a ministry that house experts in occupational and safety health.

By being silent and speaking in political language to the latest incident, the minister seem to have forgotten his entire basic medical training and so his Hippocratic Oath of "Do No Harm".

The fact that injuries have occurred from the incident makes it an incident that should be investigated even to the level of Department of Occupational Safety Health (DOSH). Perhaps DOSH would humour us by providing a "hard hat" advisory for anyone working or entering the hospital.

To staff in hospitals dedicated to their healer’s oath – we salute you. – December 13, 2013.

* Malaysian Doctor reads The Malaysian Insider.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.