MOH Gags Health Workers Amid Vaccine Queue-Jumping Claims

The Ministry of Health (MOH) says this is not to prevent health care workers from speaking up, but to encourage them to use proper feedback and complaint channels.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has prohibited government health care workers from making public statements without prior permission, amid complaints online about the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.  

MOH secretary-general Mohd Shafiq Abdullah referred to a public statement supposedly written by an MOH health care worker on the implementation of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme that went viral on social media. 

He said civil servants are prohibited from making statements directly or indirectly on the implementation of any public policies, programmes, or decisions by the government without prior permission. 

“Rules related to ethics and conduct in the public service, especially in relation to the use of social media and the prohibition of making public statements without permission, are not intended to prevent any officer from speaking,” Shafiq said in a statement today.

“But these are more to ensure that officers use proper feedback and complaint channels and to maintain an image and the credibility of officers, the civil service and the government.

“Improper statements that are made without proper checks will not only ruin the image of the officer as a civil servant, but also cause confusion and worry among the public as well as, affect the credibility of the civil service and the government.”

MOH officers were also reminded to use social media wisely to avoid committing any misconduct that could subject them to disciplinary action. 

“MOH seriously takes misconduct in the use of social media and the tendency for officers to make improper public statements. Disciplinary action will be taken in each complaint or identified case should an offence be committed, according to regulations in force,” said Shafiq.

Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously tweeted that he welcomed all whistleblowers’ emails on unequal vaccine distribution and said that he will investigate each complaint. 

Khairy tweeted this in response to a complaint made on Twitter by MOH staff Dr Rafidah Abdullah, who claimed that she received many messages on vaccine queue jumpers, including 200 people from the Kelantan state secretary’s office (SUK), causing a delay for actual frontliners to get their Covid-19 shots. Dr Rafidah’s tweet got over 6,000 retweets. 

SUK then denied the allegation and said that the vaccination programme is handled by the state health office. 

Yesterday, Mohamad Taufik Ramli, special officer to the State Local Government, Housing and Health Committee chairman, lodged a police report over the allegation, which will be investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 and Section 505(b) of the Penal Code.

Update at 7.50pm: CodeBlue removed two paragraphs about an infographic by MOH’s integrity unit that told MOH staff to get prior written approval from the health minister before making any statements, after MOH claimed the infographic was “fake news”.

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