The situation in nursing homes

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is shocked with the news that the elderly in a nursing home in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan have allegedly been systematically and continuously abused. The workers there have alleged that the elderly were forced to drink urine, eat chillies and given more sleeping pills than what was prescribed. Those who are responsible for these cruel acts should be punished severely.  

How could this be allowed to happen when care centres are supposed to provide protection, supervision, rehabilitation and training?   

We understand that many nursing homes are operating without being registered with the Social Welfare Department (JKM), the authority overseeing all care centres. Evidently no action is being taken against these errant nursing homes and this reflects poorly on the enforcement division of JKM. Under the Care Centre Act 1993, recognised officers have every right to enter the premises to determine the health and wellbeing of the residents

This situation cannot continue. We live in a society where the life expectancy has increased but are still plagued by age related health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and much more that force the elderly to be dependent on the younger generation. 

Nevertheless, the reality is that not every adult child is able to care for their aging parents. This in turn has caused the population of elderly being placed in nursing homes to increase.  

The elderly in nursing homes are visited by their family members and this makes us curious as to how the family members could not notice if the elderly are abused. The answer is that the elderly themselves hide the abuse done to them. 

It was stated in the article on the alleged abuse case in Seremban, the elderly hid that they were abused because they were afraid that there would be worse consequences if it was found out.

As such, there must be better laws and enforcement to protect the residents of care centres, be they elderly or otherwise, from suffering abuse at the hands of their supposed caregivers.

In March 2018 the Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Services Act or Act 802 was published in the federal Gazette; but as of now Act 802 is not yet in force. We have yet to explore this new piece of legislation and are unclear if this will eventually govern all nursing homes or only the ones that provide medical care?

In the alleged Seremban abuse case the State Women, Family and Welfare Affairs Committee chairperson has said that enforcement action will be taken against the care centre if it is found to have circumvented the law. But we cannot indulge in naivety and complacency by convincing ourselves that this is just an isolated incident. If abuse can take place in one nursing home it can happen in any nursing home across the country.

CAP asks that JKM take proactive measure to conduct scheduled spot-checks (if not already being done) at all premises that claim to be nursing homes, even if there are no complaints.

CALL FOR URGENT ACTION TO CLEAN UP POOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY IN PASIR GUDANG, JOHOR

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is most alarmed to learn of yet another incident of a school in the Pasir Gudang district in Johor where the health of students has been put in jeopardy.
We refer to media reports of 15 students from Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar in Pasir Gudang who were taken to a nearby hospital, as they were suffering from breathing difficulties and vomiting on Thursday.
According to press reports, the students displayed symptoms similar to those affected by the chemical pollution of Sungei Kim Kim in March this year.
The Health Minister, Datuk Sri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad is reported to have said that the symptoms could possibly be the result of contamination from organic fumes and that the situation at the school is “under control” with the authorities monitoring the situation, including in determining the cause of the pollution and the contamination levels.
An urgent explanation as to why the incident happened is indeed wanting.
It is indeed shocking that action is taken by the authorities only when an emergency situation presents itself, such as when students in schools face serious health conditions.
Clearly, we are not learning from the Sungei Kim Kim pollution.
SAM calls on the Department of Environment (DOE) and the State and local authorities in Johor to place high priority on the poor state of environmental quality in Johor and take urgent action in monitoring the water and air quality in the state.
This is especially needed in the Pasir Gudang district and other places where schools and residential areas are sited close to industrial sites.
Inspecting factories and industrial sites in the area is also most urgent, to ascertain how the industrial wastes are being disposed-off.
We should not be waiting for emergencies to happen before taking efforts to decontaminate the affected sites.
These incidents have also reveal that enforcement measures by authorities are rather weak, as action is only taken when complaints are received. The approach taken is usually one of ‘self-regulation,’, meaning that factories and businesses are left to self-regulate themselves.
The ‘self-regulation approach’ should be stopped immediately, and authorities, especially the DOE, and the local and municipal councils, should step up their monitoring and inspections especially in industrial sites close to schools and residential areas.
We call for urgent action to be taken, before more students in the Pasir Gudang area succumb to further deterioration of their health due to exposure to toxic fumes and wastes from industrial activities.
Further, the culprits who cause such pollution and ill-health should be taken to task for their violation of the laws, with prosecutions that result in jail terms and huge fines, so that environmental crimes are taken seriously in the future.
PRESS RELEASE,  21 JUNE 2019

CAP: Freeze any increase in cement prices

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) calls on the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) to put any immediate freeze and stop cement players from imposing a price increase on cement.

Cement is listed as a “scheduled control goods” in KPDNHEP’s website  dated 2019.  However according to a 2008 news report the then Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamed said that the government may introduce a mechanism to ensure that steel bars and cement supplied to contractors at a reasonable price.   Does this mean that the previous government had liberalised it 10 years ago?

Malaysian Competition Commission (MyCC) should also investigate if the cement players had violated the Competition Act because of reports that a company now dominates 85% of the local cement industry.

The Ministry should take stern action against those who have already hiked the price prior to approval because cement is a price controlled item.  According to a report, a cement supplier had increased the price to RM40-00 from RM20.00 per cubic metre since 15th June 2019.

Never had cement prices skyrocketed so abruptly and had the government been informed of this move?

We reiterate our call for KPDNHEP and MyCC to investigate if the industry had violated any of the acts and in the meantime freeze the price increase.

 

Press Statement , 18 June 2019

CAP AND RESIDENTS OBJECT TO POLLUTION FROM PLASTIC WASTE RECYCLING PLANTS IN SUNGAI PETANI,KEDAH.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and residents staying near the industrial areas in Sungai Petani, Kuala Muda District in the state of Kedah object to the operations of plastic waste recycling factories including illegal recycling plants for causing serious air pollution here from a year ago.

Following the complaint lodged by the community representatives, CAP has sent a letter with 3,298 signatures of residents petitioning the Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change YB Yeo Bee Yin to take immediate action to address the pollution problem in this township. 

Among the areas and housing estates affected by the pollution are Bandar Seri Astana, Taman Ria Jaya, Taman Petani Jaya, Taman Sejahtera, Taman Berangan, Taman Seri Wang, Taman Intan, Taman Nilam, Taman Seraya, Cinta Sayang Resort Homes, Resort Villas and Taman Keladi.

In a survey conducted by CAP with the Sungai Petani Environmental Action Association, we learned that the pollution has been reported to the Department of Environment (DOE) and Sungai Petani Municipal Council (MPSPK).  The communities had also carried out peaceful protests  but to date no effective action was taken by the relevant parties to curb the pollution.

The air pollution not only causes discomfort among the population here. Many are suffering from respiratory problems, cough, breathing difficulties, eye irritation and skin itchiness. The situation is becoming serious as plastic waste factory operators who also process imported waste regularly operate at night, some reportedly burning waste at illegal dumpsites in the area.

CAP is very disappointed with the situation here because it not only violates the Environmental Quality Act 1974 by causing environmental pollution but also threatening public health. The pollution problem will worsen in the future if the responsible party continues to look lightly on these complaints. 

CAP finds that government has failed to effectively address the issue of dumping of imported plastic wastes and environmental pollution attributed to the plastic waste recycling industry. We hereby call on the Department of Solid Waste Management to cancel Approved Permits issued  to plastic recycling companies to import plastic waste.

 

Media  Statement, 19th June 2019

Long awaited Consumer Credit Act

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) welcomes the statement by the BNM Governor, Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, that a Consumer Credit Act could finally be part of our Malaysian legislation starting sometime next year.

CAP has been championing the implementation of a comprehensive Consumer Credit Act close to two decades now. In the year 2004 CAP published a memorandum on the need for a Consumer Credit Act focusing on problem areas in transactions such as Hire Purchase, money lending, credit sales (e.g. Courts Malaysia, Singer, etc), pawn broking, cooperative loans, credit cards and personal loans).

The main idea of a Consumer Credit Act should be that it encompasses all areas of consumer credit and it must be directed towards consumer protection. This is what we advocated in our memorandum.

Over the years there have also been certain initiatives by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) to engage with NGOs on this matter. One such engagement session that CAP attended was held in 2011; but ultimately it did not bear any tangible results on enacting a Consumer Credit Act.

However in April of this year we attended another engagement session with KPDNHEP to discuss suggestions for the proposed Consumer Credit Act which was very promising.

Our continued research on the matter has shown that many countries that have Consumer Credit Acts are very specific with provisions that truly protect consumers. We hope that Malaysia’s Consumer Credit Act will mirror that and not just be used to consolidate all the existing provisions under the various acts that deal with borrowing/lending as some of these provisions can be very vague.

A few suggestions we have that we would like to briefly mention include:

·         having a cooling off period for all types of loan,

·         lending facilities should give detailed loan accounts that the layman can understand,

·         have provisions that stop consumers from losing out when collateral or repossessed goods have been auctioned,

·         get rid of flat rate method of interest calculation,

·         include credit reporting agencies in the Consumer Credit Act,

·         make early loan repayment worthwhile for consumers,

·         have heavier penalties for banks and repossessors that do not follow the law in the process of repossessing motor vehicles.

Being an association geared towards aiding people with consumer problems, we have received our fair share of borrowing/lending oriented complaints which include: banks and repossessor circumventing the law in repossession of motor vehicles in Hire Purchase transaction, bankers selling investment linked insurance without explaining that the bulk of the money (usually taken from FDs) will be used for the insurance part, unwittingly borrowing from Ah Longs believing that they are licensed money lenders, not being able to pay off loans according to schedule because of skewed interest rate calculations and so much more.

The current lack of proper legislation to deal with consumer credit issues has caused low income earners to be exploited by “sharks”

As such, we iterate our hope that the statement by the BNM Governor will be given legal force and that come next year our consumers will finally be properly protected when they must resort to borrowing from lending institutions.

 

Letter to the Editor, 18 June 2019