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Outspoken doctor persistently “sidelined”

Corrected at 12:20pm, 22 March 2010

PETALING JAYA, 16 Mar 2010: An outspoken doctor has charged that her attempts to highlight the mismanagement of an Orang Asli hospital in Gombak were persistently undermined by the authorities.


Dr Selva (Courtesy of Bar Council)
Dr Selva Vathany Kanapathi Pillai, who went public recently with serious allegations of cronyism and unprofessionalism in the hospital, alleged that she was constantly sidelined due to her outspokenness.

(Corrected) In one instance, Dr Selva claimed, hospital director Dr Saaiah Abdullah tried to exclude her from a meeting with the deputy rural and regional development minister when he visited the hospital in September 2009.

“This was despite her earlier instructions for all unit heads to be present,” Dr Selva, who was the hospital’s outpatient department head, said in a phone interview.

“When I went to the meeting room, I was told [by Dr Saaiah's clerk] I need not attend because there were not enough chairs,” Dr Selva told The Nut Graph.

“Only when I said I would ask the deputy minister myself why I was not included, did they say I could attend.”

Dr Selva said the deputy minister had appointed her to join the ministry’s focus group on rural health after she voiced her concerns on Orang Asli health.

But, she said, further problems developed. According to Dr Selva, there was a focus group meeting in Kelantan in October 2009. She claimed that the hospital director told her to wait at the hospital for a car to take them to the meeting. But the car never arrived.

“I flew to Kota Baru at my own cost the next day and rented a car to drive to Gua Musang [for the meeting],” Dr Selva said.

Two months later, Dr Selva, who has worked at the hospital since March 2009, was transferred by the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA), which runs the hospital, to Sungai Siput in Perak.

“There’s no pharmacy, laboratory or medical assistants at Sungai Siput. It’s just a transit point. Patients are treated at a nearby hospital,” she said.


Click on image to view letter of promotion
“Why would they want to put a doctor there when there was a vacant position at Gombak Hospital?”

When she sought clarification from the Health Ministry, she found out she had, in fact, been promoted since September 2009 and a letter had been sent to Gombak Hospital.

“The hospital director had been hiding [my promotion] from me,” she claimed.

Dr Selva asserted that Dr Saaiah wanted her out of the hospital before she found out about the promotion, which was backdated. 

Shortly after these incidents, Dr Selva sent a complaint letter to, among others, the Health Ministry, on the alleged mismanagement in the hospital and the attempts to sideline her. The Health Ministry is currently investigating her allegations.

New posting


Click on image to view transfer letter
Dr Selva said that on 29 Jan 2010, she received a letter from the Health Ministry transferring her to Kedah, and out of JHEOA. “This was despite my last letter from the Health Ministry [announcing my promotion in December 2009], saying I was to continue serving JHEOA.

“No reasons were given for my transfer, except a letter from JHEOA to the ministry dated 17 Dec 2009 was mentioned. I have asked to see that letter, but [the ministry and the JHEOA] have not allowed me to do so.”

The JHEOA, however, has denied involvement in Dr Selva’s transfer, telling theSun in 25 Feb 2010 report that it was a Health Ministry directive. 

Dr Selva gave an 11 Feb 2010 press conference at the Bar Council on the state of affairs at the hospital and started her Alor Setar, Kedah posting on 1 Mar 2010. When asked by theSun about her transfer to Alor Setar, the Health Ministry said it was done based on “needs for service” in Kedah.

When contacted and informed about Dr Selva’s allegations, Dr Saaiah said,” I am aware of Dr Selva’s allegations. She has written a letter containing these complaints. My department and I have been in discussions with the Health Ministry and we’re in the midst of preparing a response.” 

Dr Saaiah declined to elaborate pending the completion of the official process.

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18 Responses to “Outspoken doctor persistently “sidelined””

  1. K.C.Cheah says:

    Keep up your good work on bringing news that matters and where MSM are afraid of and will not do. TQ.

  2. navin says:

    Obviously the Health Ministry has something to hide with regards to the Gombak Orang Asli hospital and its management. I hope the Health Ministry has enough courage and responsibility to disclose any discrepancies in their treatment of Orang Asli.

  3. danny leebob says:

    Well done! only possible in “Bolehland”

  4. Antares says:

    Dr Saaiah Abdullah comes across as living proof of the Banality of Evil.

    And why is the JHEOA still operating when the Emergency officially ended in 1960? It is [perhaps] the most corrupt and useless government agency of all — and it consumes an annual budget in excess of RM150 million.

  5. Esther Richards says:

    Selva if you were the student under me then i salute you for your courage and determination in championing the cause of the underpriviledged and the wronged. ENR

  6. sheila says:

    I salute your courage and persistence in the face of evil and personal setbacks. Who exactly are these shadowy people in government working for, when they can protect members of their organisation who deprive babies and families of food, milk and medicine? Not every sin can be forgiven, no matter how many times one confesses or makes a trip to Mecca. Those in high places should remember that.

  7. Bala P says:

    My daughter is a medical student at UCSI who, as part of their hands-on training, visits this Gombak Hospital every alternate week. She tells me of the shabby treatment given to the Orang Asli. The patients are forced to wait for hours before someone attends to them. The medical care given is very pathetic, and they are treated worse than animals. The nurses are extremely rude and don’t care less if the patients are in pain. I understand why Dr Selva is angry and vocal in highlighting the mismanagement of the hospital.

  8. Keruah says:

    Dr Selva has behaved honourably and lived up to her professional responsibility. Can other professionals in Malaysia do the same? Or will they continue to look after their own interests, and their own families’ interests, and ignore others’ cries for help?

  9. pity malaysian says:

    [This] is the govt departments’ work – be with whatever they do or you will be sidelined or kicked out. I just wonder [how] these people, like Dr. Aaaiah, can sleep well and pray to God.

  10. SUPPORTER says:

    The moral of the story is let Orang Asli manage their own affairs instead of JHEOA as it is now manned by people with vested interest. Even schools in Orang Asli kampung at Lasah Sg Siput don’t perform as normal schools do. Because the administrators there don’t bother [about] how Orang Asli children are educated and all the best facilities meant for Orang Asli are used by non-Orang Asli including the Astro service.

  11. Greg Lopez says:

    Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi.

    I’m impressed with Dr Selva. As always, there are too few Malaysians like Dr Selva – who can stand up against this corrupt government and their agents.

    Now more than ever, all Malaysians should be encouraged by what Dr Selva has done and take similar action in whatever field that they are in.

  12. A.Durai says:

    Dr Selva, I envy your courage and determination. A prayer for your success. I am sure there will be more doctors involved in such situations. Anyway to all the wrongdoers: you will have to answer The Almighty Judge above one day. You will have to pay the price.

  13. Dr Viveg says:

    Well done girl!

  14. fearful says:

    That’s why everybody keeps quiet working with the ministry…this is the victimisation everyone is fearful of. It is unhealthy as many who are really servicing the community get sidelined by those who are politically involved. This is one aspect of government service that has not been addressed.

  15. ravi says:

    It is quite evident that she is sidelined. The grade she was until her recent promotion was the one of a house officer’s. A HOD in a HO’s salary grade. Excellent. And they wonder about brain drain.

  16. Batin Alang says:

    I know JHEOA very,very well and how it functions. I was [...] living with Orang Asli for years. JHEOA must be ‘dismantled’ as it is NOT helping Orang Asli at all. Lots of hanky-panky going on. We submitted many complaints to the head of department in KL and the state on such matters, but NO ACTION was taken. That was back in the early 1980s and 1990s. Don’t believe me? Make a trip to Pos Gob, Pos Belatim, Pos Kuala Mu, Pos Legap, Fort Kemar, Pos Chiong and many others in Ulu Perak and Ulu Kelantan. Interview the Batin and Pengulu and you will know what I am talking about.

    For heaven’s sake, send officers with high integrity, otherwise it will be “semuanya OK!” and back to square one. Very sad indeed!

  17. Simon Yeong says:

    I am a medical student and had three days’ rotational posting in JHEOA Gombak last year. Managed to meet Dr Selva on one occasion … nice to know that she is still fighting for Orang Asli rights and privileges.

    By the way, there were many cases of malnutrition there when I did my posting. I wondered how that could be possible, since the Malaysian healthcare system could provide basic necessities in a basket if a child suffered from malnutrition. Now I know what the real reason is! Thank you, Dr Selva, for bringing up these issues.

  18. wawa says:

    Bravo, Dr Selva, for speaking up. Discrepancies are widely happening in many other government clinics as well [...]


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