KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Private health care providers may now be compelled to provide the government resources in the Covid-19 epidemic, as an emergency ordinance gazetted today mandates RM5 million fine, 10 years’ imprisonment, or both for violations.
The Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 came into effect after Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told the press yesterday that private hospitals could be fined up to RM5 million or face incarceration if they refused government requests to take in Covid-19 patients.
Section 3 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance empowers the government to take temporary possession of any land, building, or movable property for any expedient purpose. The government may also prohibit or restrict the exercise of rights over the land or building.
Section 4 of the emergency ordinance states that the government may demand for the use of any resources, defined as human resources, facilities, utilities, and assets.
Section 5(1) of the emergency law empowers the government to determine compensation for possession of any land, building, or movable property; or for utilisation of resources demanded.
“The assessment of compensation under subsection (1) shall be final and conclusive and shall not be challenged or called in question in any court on any ground.”
Section 8 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance allows the exemption of a registered health care professional to comply with the address of their place of practice. This applies to doctors, dentists, pharmacists, allied health professionals, medical assistants, nurses, midwives, opticians, and estate hospital assistants regulated under various legislations, such as the Medical Act 1971, among others.
This implies that private health workers may be recruited, during the state of emergency, into the public health care system to manage the Covid-19 epidemic.
Section 6(1) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance empowers the government to appoint anyone to order treatment, immunisation, isolation, observation, or surveillance, as per Section 11(3)(a) and (b) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
Section 10 of the emergency law prohibits any legal action, suit, prosecution, or other proceedings against the government or any person appointed under Section 6(1) “in respect of any act, neglect or default done or omitted by it or him in good faith, in carrying out the provision of this Ordinance”.
This essentially means that private health care providers, during the state of emergency, can treat Covid-19 patients or provide Covid-19 vaccination without facing medical liability issues. Before the coronavirus pandemic, infectious diseases and outbreaks have always been managed by the public health care system, except for dengue that can be treated across government and private medical facilities.
Ismail Sabri reportedly said yesterday that asymptomatic and mild Covid-19 cases could be treated in private hospitals, amid a surge of coronavirus infections averaging at about 2,000 daily that threatens to overwhelm the public health care system.