Procurement Of Questionable Medical Equipment

The Consumers Association of Penang refers to news reports regarding the procurement of questionable medical equipment by the Ministry of Health. We are shocked that the Health Ministry would even consider, let alone actually purchase medical equipment of dubious quality and origins to be used on and by patients. Now that the cats out of the bag, several things come to mind and we feel it is crucial that they be addressed.

To start with, the Health Ministry took a gamble when they purchased the four types of medical equipment labelled “critical-care” and placed them in general hospitals. One of the devices, the defibrillator monitor, delivers electrical energy to a patient’s heart. Another device, the anaesthetic machine, administers a continuous flow of anaesthesia to a patient. If either of these devices were to malfunction when in use, it could probably result in the patient’s death.

The people’s confidence in the Health Ministry is unsurprisingly going to be lacking for an uncertain amount of time. They are going to be continuously second-guessing anything related to the Ministry of Health. This could be detrimental to both parties as people might not listen to the Health Ministry even when they are addressing serious matters.

How was this company even given approval to “manufacture” and sell medical equipment? According to news reports, this company has not even fulfilled the basic provisions of the Medical Device Act and yet the Trade and Industry Ministry has given the company “local assembly” status and stated that they “ought to be given priority” when purchasing the four types of machines. The term “closing one eye” does not seem adequate in this case. We would hope that the people in charge would be a little more conscientious when dealing with matters related to human lives.

There is also the chance that this not the first company that has not fulfilled the basic provisions of the Medical Device Act but was allowed to sell medical equipment to hospitals and clinics. If it can happen once, it can happen many times; and it probably already has. How many other types of unsafe medical equipment are out there?

We also question where exactly all these medical equipments are coming from? News reports state that despite the fact that the company has been accorded “local assembly” status, its assembly plant is a couple rows of shop-houses that have seen no manufacturing action. Who is supplying this questionable medical equipment? Is it locally made or imported?

The thought that private hospitals might also be unknowingly purchasing medical equipment from dubious companies also comes to mind. Since the medical devices purchased by the Health Ministry are obviously manufactured by another company and not the company half owned by a former director-general of health; it is quite possible that other faulty medical devices are being used in other hospitals.

As such, CAP calls for a full inquiry by independent agencies into the quality of medical equipment used in Malaysia and also whether or not medical equipments are periodically calibrated. We demand that the Health Ministry not play dice with our lives and that from now on all medical matters are conducted by the book.

Letter to the Press, 11 November 2014