By Mariam Mokhtar
The open letter to Muhyiddin Yassin from a doctor who claims that he is a health ministry specialist, has exposed PN's terrible management of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sentiments of this medical frontliner, whose detailed exposé is acutely damaging, is the wake-up call that is necessary to improve Muhyiddin's handling of the crisis.
To make matters worse for the government, the views of the letter writer who used the pseudonym Dr Tachdjian, mirrors the sentiments of the general public.
Dr Tachdjian did not pull his punches and pinpointed the cause of the rise in cases when he said, "Ministers and many other top officials who did not follow SOP and were let off the hook are the real cause of the sudden surge of cases. The delay in lockdown has just deepened the already bleeding wound."
Will the government listen to Dr Tachdjian? To reject his criticisms would only show their arrogance, but the government is probably aware that to heed his advice would be seen as an admission that PN has indeed mishandled the crisis.
Dr Tachdjian didn't just criticize the politicians, he also urged the rakyat to observe the SOP and he encouraged medical frontliners to continue with their good work. He told them that the public supported the frontliners, and the public were aware that their dedication and commitment over the past few months had been compromised by a few irresponsible individuals.
Dr Tachdjian's main grievances are below.
He listed the many failures of the political class to heed the advice of the ministry of health to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
He singled out the special treatment given to the Sabah chief minister and other VIPs.
He cited the ignorance of the government which did not acknowledge the true situation on the ground, for instance the neglect of patients with other illnesses, to cater for coronavirus cases.
He exposed the inadequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the laborious and opaque, centralized PPE distribution system.
He said that healthcare workers were over-stretched and their resources were wearing thin.
He said the allowances for frontline healthcare workers should be paid now, not in a few months' time.
He demanded that frontline workers be given a better work-life balance, especially as many had sacrificed time with their families to help contain the infections.
He questioned the contradictory advice for ordering the Movement Control Order (MCO) when large gatherings like weddings were allowed.
He suggested the involvement of the private sector to help manage the coronavirus crisis.
He wanted Muhyiddin to punish the ministers and politicians who abused their powers when they failed to adhere to strict SOP rules.
It is all the more surprising that the director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah responded to the open letter to Muhyiddin, and not his boss health minister Dr Adham Baba.
Dr Noor Hisham intimidated that Dr Tachdjian was an attention seeker. The director-general added, "A specialist doctor with the MOH will surely be ethical and have credibility. That is what I hope for from an MOH specialist.
"I must admit, doctor, I am disappointed. In the open letter, you have clearly identified a patient to the public by referring to a high profile individual in Sabah who is warded at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (HQE).
"For your information, doctor, this is against the ethics of a medical doctor. Patient confidentiality is a priority for the medical profession, and the MOH always stresses this."
The rakyat may disagree with Dr Noor Hisham as the high profile individual, the Sabah CM Hajiji Noor, had already been named by newspapers. In other words, Hajiji's name was already in the public domain.
Dr Tachdjian did not reveal Hajiji's confidential medical records. He merely stated the manner in which Hajiji had been fast tracked for treatment. Unlike other coronavirus patients, Hajiji did not have to suffer the Emergency Department and wait for a bed on a ward.
Malaysians may have read about another high profile politician who contracted coronavirus.
British prime minister Boris Johnson was under self-quarantine, but was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital when his condition deteriorated. When interviewed, nurses said Johnson was treated like any other patient and not given preferential treatment. Can we say the same happens in Malaysia?
Dr Noor Hisham appeared to defend the failure of the Muhyiddin administration, and he did not address the double standards under which politicians were not punished for their non-compliance with the SOP.
So, was Dr Noor Hisham under instruction from Muhyiddin to make the rebuttal? Why would he want to risk his reputation by patronizing the public and playing politics?
Dr Tachdjian said the government did not know the true situation on the ground. Perhaps Dr Noor Hisham can advise the three deputy chief ministers in Sabah to appoint a health minister to the state cabinet. This post was created by Warisan, but the new Sabah PN administration abolished it.
One DCM will suffice, but Sabah needs someone who is dedicated to the provision of healthcare in this country which is vast, lacks decent infrastructure and has poor medical resources.
1. MalaysiaKini: COVID-19: Wake up, enough talk, take action
2. MalaysiaKini: Responding to open letter to PM from 'MOH specialist'
3. The Telegraph: Nurses who saved Boris Johnson's life speak out for the first time
4. Yahoo News: Sabah govt dithers over health portfolio despite surge in COVID-19 cases
5. Free Malaysia Today: Bung, Jeffrey and Gunsalam are deputy CMs
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)