Meeting with Hospital Melaka

contributed by Desmond Ho

Hospital Melaka Group PhotoOn 28th May 2007, the Liaison, Charity & Welfare Sub-Committee of the Malacca Bar, headed by Mr. Nizam Bashir organized a meeting between the Bar Committee members and the administrators of Hospital Melaka. The purpose of the visit was to address problems or matters that arose in our fellow member’s dealings with the hospital administration and staff and to seek further cooperation in other areas of concern.

Dr Hj Abu Bakar bin Mohamud, the Pengarah of Hospital Melaka chaired the meeting which began at 2:30pm. The meeting was well attended by his officers from the respective departments. The Bar Committee was represented by Ng Kong Peng (Chairman of the Malacca Bar), Sekar Palaniandy, Jaspal Singh Gill, Fiona Tan, Nizam Bashir and Desmond Ho.

First up on the agenda was a discussion on a joint welfare programme. The Malacca Bar suggested that a blood donation campaign be held and the suggestion was well received by Dr Hj Abu Bakar and he remarked that Malacca is the first state to be free of the replacement blood policy because of good support from blood donors in the state. Another suggestion raised was to have an awareness talk on organs donation which both parties agreed would be looked into. Dr Hj Abu Bakar went on to seek cooperation from the Bar Committee to assist to give talks for their Continued Medical Education programmes on medico-legal issues.

Having had the “light” issues addressed, Ng Kong Peng then brought up the more serious issue of the working relationship between lawyers and doctors and of which of particular concern was the complaint of delay in issuance of medical reports for accident cases. The Hospital administration, through Dr. Zulkarnain explained that the standard target return time for producing medical reports is 8 weeks and that generally around the months of May to July each year, there would be a slight delay due to medical officers taking leave to further their studies. Dr Hj Abu Bakar then advised the Malacca Bar to contact directly with Dr. Zulkarnain (06-283 5888 ext. 5392) in the event there are grievances about delays in the issuance of medical reports.

Another pressing issue that was raised was that the medical reports issued by the medical officers were at times not of a particular standard format and that posed countless problems when a medical report is tendered in court. Dr. Sukdershan Singh who is the Timbalan Pengarah explained that there is a standard format to be adopted and the recording officer ought to check whether the medical report was of compliance to the standard format before sending the reports out to the lawyers.

Jaspal raised a question as to who would be the appropriate person to subpoena to court in the event the doctor who wrote the report was not around or has been transferred out. Dr. Sukdershan Singh clarified that the appropriate person to subpoena would be the officer in charge in the records department. Regard the issue of payment for clarification as to medical reports, Dr. Sukdershan Singh stated that there was a circular 3-4 years ago that there ought to be no charges for clarifications by doctors.

Leaving the meatier issue for last, the problem of touting in the hospitals was raised. Dr Hj Abu Bakar stated that a circular has been issued to staff that they are not to work with agents of law firms as this would be construed as an issue of conflict of interest in the performance of their jobs. Officially and on record, a hospital staff is not allowed to solicit for law firms. He went on to state that unless a specific complaint is lodged, names of alleged perpetrators are given and concrete evidence is gathered after investigation, he would not be able to act merely on bare allegations of touting. A solution that was suggested was for the Bar Committee to write a private and confidential letter naming the staff, date of the alleged “offence” and which patient was involved so that they could verify and act upon the complaint.

Ng Kong Peng ended the fruitful meeting by stating that he hopes that this meeting would be the first of many other meetings and perhaps such a meeting and continued working relationship would eradicate unfounded fears of lawyers and instill a belief that amicable but franks discussions were possible between both sides.

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