BM, English a must only between doctors during ward rounds, Health Ministry says

Jamny Rosli
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad at a press conference in Putrajaya August 6, 2018. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 20 — The Health Ministry clarified today that work communication between doctors during their ward visits must be conducted either in Bahasa Malaysia or English.

However, communication between doctors and patients can be in other languages, ministry officials added, in response to controversy over the use of Mandarin and Chinese dialects at public hospitals by doctors visiting warded patients.

“You can converse using mother tongue with patients, but must use Bahasa Malaysia or English when doing ward rounds and discussing medical case with the medical teams,” Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told reporters after his ministry’s monthly assembly here.

The ministry also confirmed that it has received the complaint over the use of languages other than BM and English among doctors during ward visits both verbally and through email from Penang and has asked the state health director to investigate the matter.

Dzulkefly said he understood the language issue arose due to the practice of some senior medical officers who got carried away while conversing with their patients and continued speaking with their juniors in the same tongue while discussing the patient’s case.

He added that the ministry will look into the matter to ensure the language miscommunication does not become a “routine” practice among medical staff.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who was also present said the ministry will investigate and act against doctors who forget to use BM or English during their medical explanations to housemen during ward visits.

“In ward rounds, we should use BM or English. But sometimes, [we] get carried away, that’s the problem.

“We will reprimand them on this aspect,” he said.

However, he said the matter was not “big issue” as reported.

Dr Noor Hisham indicated that it was an advantage for doctors to know more languages, adding that communication between doctors and their patients was more important to help build up confidence and trust in their relationship.

Yesterday, the New Sunday Times reported a doctor using the pseudonym Dr Johan Suksmajaya complaining of senior medical officers using Chinese languages while during medical cases with housemen during ward visits, even after being told some do not understand the language used.

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