BUTTERWORTH: Irked over a reported remark by the Deputy Health Minister that only women doctors assist in childbirths, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged Dr Hilmi Yahaya to step down.
Lim said it was regrettable that a trained doctor like Dr Hilmi, let alone a senior politician, could utter such a remark.
“As a doctor, you must treat your patients without looking at the gender and political background.
“What Hilmi has said is karut sekali (nonsensical). He was not talking as a doctor, he was talking like someone with an extremist view.
“Hilmi should say sorry and retract his statement. Better for him to resign if he cannot carry out his duties,” Lim told reporters after meeting sanitation workers at the Seberang Prai Municipal Council depot in Bukit Mertajam here today.
Last week, Bernama reported Hilmi as saying the Health Ministry was planning to allow only female doctors to assist in childbirths. He added the plan was on hold as there were not enough women trained in obstetrics and gynaecology.
The statement caused a stir, especially among the medical profession, with former Health Director-General Ismail Merican becoming the first to fire a salvo.
Ismail, in a letter to English daily The Star, said he felt he was suffering from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) as a result of fasting, after reading Hilmi’s comments.
“What was he thinking? Surely he knows that doctors are bound by our code of ethics and professional conduct.
“We are not allowed to discriminate by gender, race or religion,” Ismail wrote in the letter published on July 1.
In response to Ismail’s letter, Hilmi said the question of female-only doctors during childbirths was raised by a Bernama reporter during his constituency visit to Balik Pulau.
“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 yrs in politik (sic), when politicians including yours truly try to make corrections on any press report, it will either not get printed or it will appear in very small prints (sic).
“I chose not to. Of course I know very well that it will attract a lot of debate in the media,” Hilmi said in a status update on his Facebook page yesterday.
Hilmi explained that in times of emergency, expectant mothers cannot demand for female gynaecologists or doctors.
He said although there were a higher number of female gynaecologists, many left government service for “better pastures.”
“Certainly we cannot make it mandatory that only female doctors will treat female patients. It may apply to elective cases but not during emergency.
“The way the (Bernama) report was written gave the impression that Deputy Health Minister has abandoned his oath to the medical profession,” Hilmi said.