by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 6th March 1993:
DAP proposes establishment of a Patient’s Charter Council with power to receive and investigate complaints to uphold the Patient’s Charter
The promulgation of the Patient’s Charter by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the Malaysian Dental Association (MDA), the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) and the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) early this week is a step in the right direction to provide better medical and health care far Malaysians.
The next step is far the establishment of a Patient’s Charter Council with power to receive and investigate complaints of grievances under the Patient’s Charter so that such a Charter becomes a meaningful document protecting the rights of all patients, whether ill public or private sectors.
The Patient’s Charter is commendable in outlining the rights of anyone who seeks medical services in both the public and private sectors – including the right to quality health care, treat¬ment and medication regardless of race, religion, status and ability to pay.
It also addresses a patient’s right to request a second opinion, to have access to his own medical records, to receive prior explanation on the medical treatment and the risks involved, as well as the right to take part in the decision-making for his or her own health.
Other rights of a patient covered by the charter are the right to redress of grievances in case of negligence, the right to adequate information such as advice on drug administration and the right to an itemised bill.
Although these rights enshrined in the Patient’s Charter are highly commendable, the question is how, can patients who are denied of these rights seek redress under the Charter.
At present, these rights under the Patient’s Charter are not enforceable in a court of law, and there is also no mechanism whereby patients denied such rights under the Charter could turn to for advice, redress and justice.
Without a Patient’s Charter Council, with the power to uphold the aims and objectives of the Charter, patients who feel “Short-changed” while seeking medical treatment will continue to be “shortchanged”.
The four organisations which had signed and endorsed Patient’s Charter – namely the Malaysian Medical Association, the Malaysian Dental Association, the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Association – together with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs should jointly establish such a Patient’s Charter Council entrusted with the power to receive and investigate complaints and uphold the rights spelled out ill the Patient’s Charter.
Such a Patient’s Charter Council could be created by an Act of Parliament in order to provide statutory teeth to the rights laid down in the Patient’s Charter.