The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) has warned that stern action will be taken against civil staff who disclose classified information to the public, with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam stressing that the issue will not be taken lightly.

“I believe such problem do not occur just in my ministry but others as well,” he said.

Spread of internal circulars lead to public health fears

Just last week, a circular by the Health Ministry went viral, displaying an increase in the nominal dental charges in government health facilities, and causing worry among the public.

However, the health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah reassured that the revised charges were for the basic costs of dental procedures without government subsidies, and that the public that would still receive services at a subsidised rate.

“The new charges will only be borne by patients who could afford (for patients who fall under first and second class category) them, however, third class patients will continue to enjoy the subsidy,” he said at the time, stressing that the Health Ministry will continue to provide quality healthcare at highly subsidised and affordable rates to citizens.

This, however, was not the first time that a circular from the ministry is actively shared among the public.

In September 2016, a letter issued by the Pathology department of Tengku Ampuan Rahmah Hospital in Klang became actively disseminated, and resulted in intense discussion regarding inadequate funds leading to temporary suspension of laboratory services as well as a shortage of medicine supply.

"There is no shortage of medicines or supplements at public hospitals and clinics. What we have done is to supply medicines for a month. This is to reduce wastage,” said Noor Hisham in response to the unease that stirred following the spread of the circular.

In October the same year, another circular notifying the implementation of Full Paying Patient (FPP) in 32 public hospitals became a highly discussed topic, causing many to postulate that prices for public health services will increase.

Again, the MOH assured that government-subsidised care will continue, and warned the public against the spread of untrue information, explaining that the FPP services was optional, and implemented to address the shortage of government specialists.

Health Minister: Disciplinary action will be taken to those who leak information

According to Subramaniam, the ministry will act against those who share internal circulars and spread information without proper authorisation.

“By leaking classified information, these irresponsible people are only causing panic and giving the public a wrong perception of the government. We will not tolerate this,” he also said, adding that an internal investigation is ongoing on the recent issue related to the rise in dental charges. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is also carrying out a separate investigation on the matter.

"The culprits will be dealt with, with disciplinary action,” Subramaniam said. “Previously, we issued last warnings to several staff who leaked information without permission.” MIMS

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