Dr Hilmi addresses controversial subject of women docs

obstetrician-and-gynaecologyBy Dr Hilmi Yahya

I have read with interest, comments by my good friend Tan Sri Ismail Merican. We have similar backgrounds in that we are both from Penang, and went to the same university, University Malaya. Of course he is my senior. Tan Sri had a very illustrious career and as far as I can remember, is the only Director-General of the Health Ministry, appointed to the post after his retirement.

I agree with him totally on the issue of vaccination. We are going backwards in efforts to manage communicable diseases. The government spends more than RM100 million each year to provide immunisation for all of our children, yet those that reject immunisation are educated people, some even with university degrees. The rejection of immunisation is on the uptrend and many even convince others to do the same.

Many reasons are given i.e. medical side effects and religious considerations. I have said many times and even replied in parliament that the vaccine the Ministry of Health uses has no porcine DNA. The distrust over the absence of porcine DNA, stems from having too many Dr Googles among us. They read something on the Internet and that’s it, they believe whatever is written there. They make their own conclusions without expert opinions from our health specialists. One simple logic – the vaccines have undergone extensive clinical trials by experts and would therefore never be used on our children if proven unsafe to begin with.

People who reject immunisation for their children are selfish in a way. They themselves received immunisation when young. Their parents never rejected it. That is why I presume they remained healthy and were able to have their own children. However, they have chosen to deny their children the same protection from immunisation that they themselves received once. This is unthinkable.

They are denying the right of their children to a healthy life free of communicable diseases. What is even worse is that they are also putting the general population at risk due to lack of herd immunity.

I agree we have to do more to convince this so called “educated” group to understand the dangers faced by their children and the general public if immunisation is rejected. So far the fatwa on the use of the vaccines is HARUS. We are in the process of engaging JAKIM, the women’s ministry and other relevant agencies on the way forward. One thing that can be done immediately is to have JAKIM write a khutbah for Friday prayers.

On the issue of only women doctors attending to obstetrician and gynaecology (O&G) cases, this is not new. Every now and then this issue is raised by certain groups. These are the idealists. They want only women doctors attending to women patients. This subject was posed to me by a reporter when I visited the maternity ward in Hospital Balik Pulau. Somehow it became big news. The reporter wrote what she thought was true. Anyway let me tell you, in my 25 years in politics, when politicians including yours truly, attempt making corrections of any press report, it either does not get printed or appears in very small print. I chose not to correct the news report. Of course I knew that too would attract a lot of debate in the media.

Let us examine the current situation in government hospitals. As of December 2015, there are 172 female and 134 male O&G specialists nationwide. Last year alone 15 left the government service for greener pastures.

Since last year, we increased the number of Masters scholarships to 1,000. The uptake has been good but at the same time many still leave the government service. This means it will take sometime for the country to achieve an adequate number of female O&G specialists in government service. When that happens, our young mothers will have the luxury to choose their preferred female specialist. Of course there will also be many male specialists working with their female counterparts. In times of emergency, you cannot choose. Whoever is available will attend to the case at hand.

The way the report was written gave the impression that the Deputy Health Minister had abandoned his oath to the medical profession. I am still a doctor. Certainly we cannot make it mandatory that only female doctors treat female patients. It may apply to elective cases but not during emergencies.

Hope Tan Sri has got the clear message by now.

Dr Hilmi Haji Yahaya is MP for Balik Pulau and Deputy Minister Of Health, Malaysia,

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