Doctors using languages other than BM and English: 'Ministry has started investigation'

Tasnim Lokman

KUALA LUMPUR:The Health Ministry has initiated investigations into the alleged practice of senior doctors denying their junior colleagues the opportunity to learn by using languages other than English and Bahasa Malaysia in hospitals, as highlighted by the New Sunday Times.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim said Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar was investigating the matter.

He said Azman had given his assurance that he would issue a directive to hospital directors to put a stop to the practice, which was said to have been going on for awhile.

A source from the investigation team told the NST that it was gathering more information on the matter, adding that complaints had been lodged a number of times in the past.

“We are at a fact-finding and verification stage.

“We need to verify whether it is true that ward rounds are being carried out in languages other than Bahasa Malaysia and English, for instance, Mandarin,” he said.

The source said medical practitioners were allowed to communicate with patients in their mother tongue, such as Mandarin, based on patients’ needs so that they had a clear understanding of patients’ problems or symptoms.

“However, when doctors discuss cases with other doctors, specialists and nurses, for example, it must be done in either Bahasa Malaysia or English,” he said, adding that the ministry was doing its best to address the matter.

He said hospitals known for this practice had been instructed to provide facts and information.

When asked if any action would be taken againt those who persisted on using languages other than Bahasa Malaysia and English during discussions, the source said the investigation team would not want to jump the gun.

“Wait and see how the investigations pan out.

“The fact is any management of case must be done in manner that everyone understands.

“Medicine is multi-discipline and that means one has to confide with other doctors or specialists on cases,” he said.

Another source in the investigation team said while there was no standard operating procedure in place involving languages, those in the medical fraternity should use common sense and communicate in the common language.

“Hindering the learning process is one thing, but in terms of patient management, it is very dangerous.

“Lack of proper communication could lead to wrong interpretations (of the patient’s illness and wellbeing) and possibly lead to deadly situations.

“We need to reduce these kinds of risk.” © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd