Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beware of quacks at 24-hour clinics

NST: The seven appeared to be bona fide doctors, fluent in medical jargon and completely at ease when dispensing drugs.
Nothing was too difficult for them with one even performing surgery to remove tumours, kidney stones and ovarian cysts. Few of their patients suspected that there was more to these "doctors" than met the eye.
But over the past eight months, they have been exposed for what they are: Laymen masquerading as medical practitioners.
They comprised a bomoh, an ex-army medical assistant, a foreigner who claimed to have medical experience, a medical assistant and two nurses. The last on the list was a man in Chemor, Perak, who did not have an annual practicing licence. Two each were picked up in Klang and Johor and one each in Shah Alam, Seremban and Perak.
Health Ministry Medical Practice director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub said bogus doctors posed a danger to the public as they were not qualified to treat patients. He said many worked at 24-hour clinics visited by people facing emergencies.
"These unqualified people cannot handle emergencies and are extremely dangerous in such situations," he told the New Straits Times.
Dr Khairi, who launched a nationwide enforcement operation in August last year to nab bogus doctors, said it was crucial that the public know the background of doctors.
"If they have the slightest suspicion as to whether they are registered doctors, they should check with the Malaysian Medical Council."
He added that the public could also get in touch with the Medical Practice division’s complaints unit at 03-88831484/88831485.
The first of seven, nabbed in Shah Alam in October last year, had been performing surgeries at his clinic for more than 10 years. He charged patients between RM350 and RM4,000, depending on treatment and type of surgery.
Dr Khairi said tip-offs from the public and medical practitioners led to the arrest of the bogus doctors. Under the Private Healthcare and Facilities Act and Regulation, those found guilty of impersonating a doctor face a RM300,000 fine and jail of up to six years.
He said illegal clinics run by these "doctors" were sealed pending them being charged. Those caught breaking the seal face a six months’ jail sentence and RM2,000 fine.
It is learnt that an estate medical assistant pleaded guilty in the Klang magistrates court to posing as a bogus doctor and will be sentenced in August. He will also be sentenced next month on a separate charge of breaking the clinic seal.
Dr Khairi said the division was aware of doctors who had not registered their clinics with the ministry.
"Some who have yet to register are in rural and remote areas, including in Sabah and Sarawak. We will be taking action against them soon."
Asked about "unqualified doctors" performing plastic surgery and treatment in places such as hotels, he said the ministry was aware of such activities. He said hotel owners could be fined RM300,000 or sentenced to a maximum of six years’ jail for allowing their premises to be used as a private healthcare facility.

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