KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — The proposed custodial medical unit (CMU) at centralised lockups will eventually be extended to smaller lockups throughout the country, Deputy Health Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran has said.
Dr Jeyaindran, who is in charge of medical services said that as a start, resident doctors will be placed at centralised lockups round-the-clock and eventually it will be extended to smaller lockups, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) lockups as well as Immigration detention centres.
“We are looking at the existing manpower and those who can be reallocated to CMU and from there we will decide how many more personnel we require,” he told the Malay Mail, adding that there is currently no implementation date yet as the proposal is still under discussion.
Dr Jeyaindran said that the CMU will be a new standalone unit under the Ministry of Health (MoH) and will consist of public health, medical and forensics experts.
The ministry is working closely with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) who originally mooted the idea, and other relevant agencies like the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and the police.
Dr Jeyaindran said the unit must be set up under the MoH so it will be independent in its decision-making process.
The unit is in line with international standards and it is a common practice in many developed countries, he added.
Dr Jeyaindran said that the ministry is working on the framework for the manpower and the terms of reference.
“When treating detainees, documentation of the findings must be accurate and those under CMU will be trained for it,” he said.
He added that the CMU will standardise all procedures and overcome grey areas raised in previous death in custody cases and other cases where complaints have been lodged.
Dr Jeyaindran said existing laws and regulations can accommodate the unit to set up.
“Under the law, a detainee must be medically examined when brought in and before they are released, but this is only practised in prisons as there is a resident doctor on duty there while at other detention facilities it is only done on a need basis,” he explained.
Dr. Jeyaindran said the setup of the unit medical services will also streamline medical rights for detainees as well as the role of doctors in handling these patients.
“Medical practitioners will be trained on the rules and regulations and their role in managing detainee patients,” he said.
One of the main change will be for doctors who are currently serving in prisons (under the purview of the Home Ministry) to be transferred to the CMU.
An interim measure has been put in place while CMU is being established where all centralised and selected small lockups have been given a list of hospitals they should take detainees to in case of a medical emergency.
“The emergency department heads of the listed hospitals have been briefed the procedures in handling detainees,” he said, adding that the interim procedure has been in place for the past few months.
At the same time, the department heads have also been advised on how to deal with high profile individuals who have been detained.
“They were also briefed on their role to make a decision based on the medical condition of the detainee and should not hesitate to exercise their medical judgement,” he said.
Role of the custodial medical unit
The unit will be in responsible for all medical aspects relating to detainees, starting from basic sanitation, food, common medical conditions including cases of custodial death.
Doctors will be the best to identify medical symptoms when a detainee is brought and when they complain to be unwell in custody.
Dr Jeyaindran said the doctor will make the decision if a patient should to be treated as an inpatient or outpatient, and that this decision will be conveyed to the respective custodial officers.
“The unit will streamline the health operations in dealing with matters concerning detainees. Now, different departments are responsible for various aspects of medical care delivered to the detainees” he said.
He cited examples where the public health department looks into sanitation and cleanliness, primary care department addresses common chronic illnesses and the emergency department looks into medical emergencies.
“Death in custody is always an issue which needs to be addressed in a holistic manner to ensure that the detainee did not die as a result of abuse or due to the denial of adequate medical treatment,” he said.