Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Nut Graph: Outspoken doctor persistently "sidelined"

Outspoken doctor persistently "sidelined"

16 Mar 10 : 8.00AM

By Ding Jo-Ann

PETALING JAYA, 16 Mar 2010: An outspoken doctor has charged that her attempts to highlight the mismanagement of an Orang Asli hospital in Gombak were persistently undermined by the authorities.

Dr Selva (Courtesy of Bar Council)
Dr Selva Vathany Kanapathi Pillai, who went public recently with serious allegations of cronyism and unprofessionalism in the hospital, alleged that she was constantly sidelined due to her outspokenness.

In one instance, Dr Selva claimed, hospital director Dr Saaiah Abdullah tried to exclude her from a meeting with the deputy health minister when he visited the hospital in September 2009.

"This was despite her earlier instructions for all unit heads to be present," Dr Selva, who was the hospital's outpatient department head, said in a phone interview.

"When I went to the meeting room, I was told [by Dr Saaiah's clerk] I need not attend because there were not enough chairs," Dr Selva told The Nut Graph.

"Only when I said I would ask the deputy minister myself why I was not included, did they say I could attend."

Dr Selva said the deputy minister had appointed her to join the ministry's focus group on rural health after she voiced her concerns on Orang Asli health.

But, she said, further problems developed. According to Dr Selva, there was a focus group meeting in Kelantan in October 2009. She claimed that the hospital director told her to wait at the hospital for a car to take them to the meeting. But the car never arrived.

"I flew to Kota Baru at my own cost the next day and rented a car to drive to Gua Musang [for the meeting]," Dr Selva said.

Two months later, Dr Selva, who has worked at the hospital since March 2009, was transferred by the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA), which runs the hospital, to Sungai Siput in Perak.

"There's no pharmacy, laboratory or medical assistants at Sungai Siput. It's just a transit point. Patients are treated at a nearby hospital," she said.

Click on image to view letter of promotion
"Why would they want to put a doctor there when there was a vacant position at Gombak Hospital?"

When she sought clarification from the Health Ministry, she found out she had, in fact, been promoted since September 2009 and a letter had been sent to Gombak Hospital.

"The hospital director had been hiding [my promotion] from me," she claimed.

Dr Selva asserted that Dr Saaiah wanted her out of the hospital before she found out about the promotion, which was backdated.

Shortly after these incidents, Dr Selva sent a complaint letter to, among others, the Health Ministry, on the alleged mismanagement in the hospital and the attempts to sideline her. The Health Ministry is currently investigating her allegations.

New posting

Click on image to view transfer letter
Dr Selva said that on 29 Jan 2010, she received a letter from the Health Ministry transferring her to Kedah, and out of JHEOA. "This was despite my last letter from the Health Ministry [announcing my promotion in December 2009], saying I was to continue serving JHEOA.

"No reasons were given for my transfer, except a letter from JHEOA to the ministry dated 17 Dec 2009 was mentioned. I have asked to see that letter, but [the ministry and the JHEOA] have not allowed me to do so."

The JHEOA, however, has denied involvement in Dr Selva's transfer, telling theSun in 25 Feb 2010 report that it was a Health Ministry directive.

Dr Selva gave an 11 Feb 2010 press conference at the Bar Council on the state of affairs at the hospital and started her Alor Setar, Kedah posting on 1 Mar 2010. When asked by theSun about her transfer to Alor Setar, the Health Ministry said it was done based on "needs for service" in Kedah.

When contacted and informed about Dr Selva's allegations, Dr Saaiah said," I am aware of Dr Selva's allegations. She has written a letter containing these complaints. My department and I have been in discussions with the Health Ministry and we're in the midst of preparing a response."

Dr Saaiah declined to elaborate pending the completion of the official process.

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