Bitter pill to swallow, 24-hour clinics closing doors earlier

PETALING JAYA - Twenty-four-hour clinics are closing earlier amidst safety concerns and dwindling number of patients at night.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said "quite a few" clinics had ceased operating round-the-clock because of security reasons.

"Many are considering stopping their night and 24-hour services because clinics have become easy targets for robbers," he said.

He said some clinics had even relocated after being robbed, adding that many doctors now took security into consideration when deciding on the location of their new clinics.

Dr Tharmaseelan said there had also been a drop in patients seeking treatment at night because they, too, were afraid.

"Rather than go to a clinic at night, some patients ignore mild symptoms and wait till the morning," he said. "This may lead to serious health consequences."

Dr Tharmaseelan said in addition to hiring locums, clinics now needed to employ security guards and install security equipment like CCTVs and alarm systems.

"With fewer patients, these additional costs have resulted in an increasing number of doctors closing down their night clinics," he said.

"The public will suffer as a result. Many clinics that offered cheap and accessible service have stopped operating 24 hours to ensure the safety of the doctors and patients."

The MMA has about 12,000 members with about 4,000 in private practice.

There are some 750 clinics operating round-the-clock nationwide.

Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) member and senior medical practitioner Dr Milton Lum said doctors were in a vulnerable position because they were expected to treat everyone who showed up at their clinics as genuine patients.

"Just last month, a gynaecologist had her fingers chopped off (outside her clinic)," he said.

The gynaecologist, Dr Delaila Ahmad, was robbed of her handbag which contained important documents and RM18,000 cash, in Subang Jaya, at about 1.20am by two parang-wielding men.

Her thumb and little finger were severed in the incident.

"Increased police presence will help assure the public that it is safe for patients to come out," Dr Lum said.