Doctors push for sexual harassment law after outcry over sex predator orthopaedist

Reports on an orthopaedics department head at a Klang Valley hospital who allegedly made unwanted sexual advances against housemen have cast a spotlight on the bullying culture in the healthcare industry. — AFP pic
Reports on an orthopaedics department head at a Klang Valley hospital who allegedly made unwanted sexual advances against housemen have cast a spotlight on the bullying culture in the healthcare industry. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) urged Putrajaya today to introduce a law that explicitly tackles sexual harassment at the workplace, saying existing provisions are insufficient.

The group said the absence of such a law could be the reason for the creep of a toxic culture, as indicated in news reports of a senior doctor at a public hospital in the Klang Valley who allegedly sexually harassed junior doctors, adding that such practices may be more rampant and needs to be rooted out.

The MMA noted that the Ministry of Human Resources has come up with a code of practice and prevention and eradication of sexual harassment in the workplace as a guideline, but claimed they were ineffective to combat abuses.

“We are of the opinion that the code of practice will stay as code of practice if there are no strict regulations enforced to punish the perpetrators or to deter the perpetuation of this behaviour,” MMA president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim said in a statement.

“As the voice of medical practitioners, we stand firm with our view that the relevant ministers should investigate this matter seriously and take necessary action to rectify this situation.”

Recent news reports on an orthopaedics department head at a Klang Valley hospital who allegedly made unwanted sexual advances against housemen have cast a spotlight on the bullying culture in the healthcare industry.

The perpetrator reportedly targeted female house officers who made easy targets because they he had the power to fail their housemanship.

Health Minister Dzulkifly Ahmad has said that his ministry is looking into the matter.

Describing the revelation as “shocking” and “a shame”, MMA said the reports should prompt the government to admit that sexual harassment at the workplace is a serious problem and urgent action is needed to address it.

The group also suggested that sexual harassment in healthcare could be more widespread but kept hidden because victims often avoid speaking about it out of fear that they could lose their jobs.

“We cannot deny, and that it has been happening in every work place and not just in the healthcare sector.

“After the eye-catching headline, more victims have gained their strength to finally come forward and lodge complaints,” it said.

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