Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye urged doctors to only use Bahasa Malaysia (BM) or English during ward rounds with their junior colleagues earlier today, 20 August
New Straits Times reported Dr. Lee as saying that the Ministry only allows "working languages" – BM and English to be used by medical and healthcare workers.
"Communication during ward rounds, when it involves doctors and nurses must be done using only English or BM," the Deputy Minister was quoted as saying by New Straits Times.
"Stop doing ward rounds using languages other than the two," he added, before stressing that all doctors should adhere to the rule.
The announcement was made after a recent survey involving nearly 100 doctors revealed that 80% of them did not know what was being shared during discussions in ward rounds because of the language used
Sin Chew Daily reported that the practice to not use BM or English often occurs in hospitals such as the Penang General Hospital, Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh, Sarawak General Hospital, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.
A doctor told New Sunday Times yesterday, 19 August, that the language barrier hinders not only the learning processes of medical officers, but also puts the safety of patients at risk.
"Discussions, the sharing of clinical knowledge, and patient updates are kept within the circle of medical officers and specialists who converse in Mandarin or other Chinese dialects," Dr. Johan Suksmajaya, who uses a pseudonym online, was quoted as saying by New Sunday Times in reference to certain Chinese-dominated hospitals that were hotspots for such practices.
The practice is currently being investigated by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA)
MMA president Dr. Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim told New Straits Times that the Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr. Azman Abu Bakar is investigating the issue. Azman has also promised to issue a directive to hospital directors to curb the use of Mandarin and other Chinese dialects in ward rounds.
Meanwhile, Sin Chew Daily reported Johor Health Department director Dr. Selahuddeen Abd Aziz as pledging to investigate reports of the practice happening in the Sultanah Aminah Hospital and the Sultan Ismail Hospital.
Selahuddeen stressed that existing policies allow doctors to only communicate with each other using BM and English to make sure that everyone understands the discussions held.
"Imagine if 20 Indian doctors spoke in Tamil, medical officers of other races would not have understood anything," he added.
In other news, Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad recently called on civil servants to take English competency tests: