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Sunday, December 21, 2008

> 'Mistake' to privatise IJN

The National Heart Institute (IJN) should not be privatised as it provides training to develop cardiac units in all Government hospitals by 2020, says the country’s most renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon.

Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang said this was reason enough for the premier heart institution not to go private.

“Currently, there are four cardiac units in Penang, Johor Baru, Sarawak and Serdang hospitals. Even so, the units there are not as well-equipped and well-staffed as IJN.

“We still have a long way to go,” he added.

Dr Yahya, Malaysia’s first cardio-thoracic surgeon, wanted IJN to remain a corporatised body and controlled by the Government.

“It (IJN) was never meant to be a commercial institute. It was meant to be a centre of research, a premier academic institute,” he told The Star in an interview at his office in the Damansara Specialist Centre yesterday.

He added that, as a pioneer who was directly involved in the setting up of the hospital in 1990, he was “taken aback” by the idea of privatisation.

“I was told that even the doctors (at IJN) were not informed of the idea (to privatise),” he said.

On the Government’s deferment to conduct an in-depth study, Dr Yahya said professional opinions should be sought as they were the service providers.

“This is to ensure the academic aspects of it are not pushed aside. However, I am sure, even as you lay all the facts and figures on the table, the right decision will be not to privatise the hospital,” he said.

Dr Yahya said IJN had done well and even generated income.

“Therefore, I am rather suspicious of the privatisation idea. It is not as if the hospital is not doing well. Ideally, a health institution such as IJN should be physician-led,” he said.

In 1989, a team led by Dr Yahya performed a coronary bypass operation on then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital. This subsequently initiated the setting-up of IJN in 1990 and the hospital was established two years later - The Star.