It's the sort of thing that seldom happens in Malaysia. But today, the 35 medical consultants at Institut Jantung Negara signed a petition to protest against the planned takeover by Sime Darby. It's a rare show of solidarity. Obviously, the Cabinet has also taken notice and heard the grumbling on the ground. It has asked for the takeover to be deferred. Many Cabinet members, I am told, spoke up strongly against the takeover proposal.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said that the decision has nothing to do with the coming Kuala Terengganu by-election, when questioned by reporters. But certainly the government can do with one issue less in the coming battle ahead with PAS.
Sime Darby, which has taken over the Subang Jaya Medical Centre, has taken pains to assure that IJN's fee structure and services would remain the same for the poor, with assurances that they would continue its social responsibilities. But the concern from the poor is understandable as medical treatment is expensive. When a private company runs a hospital, it is obvious that the bottom line is profit. It has to answer to its shareholders. Sime Darby has to convince, if it eventually gets to take over, how it intends to fulfill its social obligations as a private concern.