Doctor chose to go to jail





Friday, 01 February 2008 08:17am

©New Straits Times (Used by permission)

PUTRAJAYA: The doctor who is behind bars for three months for failing to pay a RM120,000 fine over his unregistered clinic preferred jail to paying the amount in instalments.

Dr Basmullah Yusom declined the Health Ministry's offer to stay out of jail.

Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the offer was made to the doctor by the ministry's prosecuting officer.

"It's not that we do not care for doctors or are unsympathetic to them," he said when asked about the strong feelings within the medical fraternity over Dr Basmullah's imprisonment.

Dr Ismail said it was time the ministry put the facts straight on the doctor's case.

"I want the medical fraternity and public to know what exactly happened."

He said action against the Al Hilal Polyclinic and Dr Basmullah was based on a complaint from a legal firm in May 2006.

Among others, he said, the complainant demanded to know the status of the clinic.

"Investigations confirmed that the clinic was unregistered. About the same period, ministry enforcement teams raided unregistered clinics owned by businessmen in Seremban, Klang and other towns and sealed them," he said.

Former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek brought the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (Act 586) into force on May 1, 2006.

Doctors did not want the act passed especially as they could become "criminals" if prosecuted by the ministry for specific offences.

The ministry has so far approved the registration of 6,322 clinics, 1,439 dental clinics and 51 clinics which offer aesthetic procedures.

Dr Ismail said this spoke volumes of the support from the majority of doctors.

He said Dr Basmullah could have registered his clinic after his clinic was sealed on July 11, last year but did not do so.

"Despite the sealing, Dr Basmullah did not take the initiative to register. He also chose not to be represented in court. He pleaded guilty to the charge."

He said the ministry viewed the matter as a landmark case in efforts to regulate the medical care sector.

"If Dr Basmullah feels he has been harshly sentenced by the Sessions Court, he has the right to appeal to a higher court," he added.

Dr Basmullah, 44, pleaded guilty to operating the Al-Hilal Medical Centre Sdn Bhd at 55, Jalan 5/76B, Desa Pandan off Jalan Kampung Pandan since 1998. The father of eight, who claimed he could not raise the fine, is serving his sentence at the Kajang Prison.