KUALA LUMPUR: Private hospitals face a fine of up to RM5 million or even jail time if they refuse to take in Category 1 and Category 2 Covid-19 patients under the new emergency rules, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.
In a press conference, Ismail said this could be enforced under the emergency ordinance to help manage the increasing number of daily cases, but Putrajaya was not considering this option yet.
Instead, the government wanted to discuss with private hospitals and obtain their suggestions first.
“Previously, we were worried there might not be enough beds, but now private hospitals can be instructed to take in Category 1 and 2 Covid-19 patients (asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms),” he said.
Ismail added that under the emergency ordinance, the health ministry also had the power to instruct hotels or any other buildings to become quarantine centres.
However, he said all new ordinances must first be approved by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the emergency has just been declared.
“He has to approve and sign (the documents) before we can enforce it.”
Ismail also said that under the state of emergency, the army had the same authoritative power as the police.
“Many things can be done in order for the government to overcome the Covid-19 crisis. This is why we needed the emergency, it is easier for us.”
Commenting on states currently under the movement control order (MCO), Ismail said only certain people with valid reasons will be allowed to return or leave their hometowns by Jan 15.
Others will be asked by the police to turn back. After tomorrow, they may be issued compound fines for attempting to travel interstate or inter district.
All public parks must also be closed, although recreational activities such as cycling and jogging will be allowed strictly within the neighbourhood, he said.
Ismail also announced that the government had agreed to allow self-service launderettes to operate from 6am to 8pm, under the condition that the owner of the premises hired a worker to monitor customers’ compliance with the standard operating procedures.
“Before entering the premises, they must have their temperatures taken, use sanitisers and practise physical distancing when lining up to wash their clothes at the machines,” he said, adding that failure to do so would result in the authorities instructing the launderette to close.
Ismail also said non-governmental organisations and individuals from MCO states who wished to help flood victims living in conditional MCO areas will be allowed to travel interstate after obtaining approval from their district or state disaster management centres.
The form can be found on the National Disaster Management Agency’s website and the groups must provide their identification number to prove they come under the Registrar of Societies, he said.
Meanwhile, the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) has pledged its cooperation to the health ministry to help manage Covid-19 cases.
Its president Dr Kuljit Singh said there were no instances of private hospitals refusing to accept Category 1 and Category 2 Covid-19 patients.
“There is no cause for concern as we will extend our co-operation to the health ministry,” he said.
Kuljit said he met with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday, and assured the latter that private hospitals will cooperate with the government to help treat Covid-19 patients.
And the very next day, he said, the association had a virtual meeting with Deputy Health Minister I Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and other health ministry officials to address the drastic increase in Covid-19 cases and its impact on public hospitals.
As for the fees to treat Covid-19 patients transferred to private hospitals from public ones, Kuljit said they were currently discussing the matter with the health ministry and finance ministry.