Home Ministry may enlist NGOs to help with healthcare for detainees

The CMU will first be implemented at the Jinjang, Kuala Lumpur centralised lockup before it is extended to other lockups. — Picture by Suhakam
The CMU will first be implemented at the Jinjang, Kuala Lumpur centralised lockup before it is extended to other lockups. — Picture by Suhakam

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — The Home Ministry may reach out to volunteer organisations to provide medical care for police detainees, even as plans for a Custodial Medical Unit (CMU) are being put in place to reduce the number of deaths in lockup.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that cost was a factor in considering the various proposals, including the new CMU.

He told Malay Mail that his ministry was concerned about how much a specialised unit would cost taxpayers.

“A cost effective proposal is for a group of doctors under the umbrella of an NGO providing the service based on request by the police,” said Zahid, who is also Deputy Prime Minister.

Another concern was whether the Health Ministry could cope with the personnel demands of the new unit.

“The Health Ministry is already facing a shortage of doctors, designating a team to lockups might not be a feasible idea but we are not rejecting the idea,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said that the ministry is also studying to see whether it will be effective to have doctors based in lockups.

In a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat last year, Ahmad Zahid said the ministry is considering placing doctors at centralised police lockups as part of a pilot plan to reduce the number of deaths in custody.

He said that the ministry was working with the Public Service Department for that purpose and are looking into the logistics, legalities, roster, allowance and the safety of the medical officers who will be on duty.

He also said that police have revised their existing standard operating procedure in handling detainees.

The new elements included periodic medical inspections by medical officers from public hospitals- with the aim to control the spread of infectious diseases among detainees.

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