Jakarta shuts 'illegal' event by S'pore healthcare group

Organisers reportedly had no proper permits, but Parkway says no patients were present

Local health authorities on Saturday shut down an event in Jakarta held by Parkway Hospitals Singapore, accusing the organisers of conducting illegal healthcare consultancies with Indonesian patients.

Parkway, however, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the event was a private networking lunch it had organised for doctors from Indonesia. These include those who had previously attended its medical seminars in Singapore.

"Attendance was for doctors and by invitation only, and there were no patients or members of the public in the ballroom," said a Parkway spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times yesterday.

"No patient consultations took place during the event."

Ms Maria Margaretha, head of healthcare services at the Jakarta Health Agency that led the joint operation, said the bust was the result of a tip-off from the Ikatan Dokter Indonesia (IDI), or Indonesian Doctors Association.

"We received a report from the Indonesian Doctors Association that there was an illegal healthcare consultancy," said Ms Maria in a report on the Tempo news website yesterday.

She added that organisers of the so-called seminar held at a ballroom in Pullman Hotel did not possess the proper permits from the Health Ministry and her agency.

The Ikatan Dokter Indonesia, or Indonesian Doctors Association, has long taken issue with foreign doctors who are not registered in Indonesia headlining talks or seminars in Indonesia, saying it amounts to practising in their country without a medical licence.

She also accused Parkway of inviting patients to consult with Singaporean doctors at the event.

In a separate report by Kompas news, officials said they had encountered a patient with a past medical report and X-ray films at the event.

"We wouldn't consider this an issue if it was in accordance with regulations," said Ms Maria.

Officials from the Jakarta Health Agency and Indonesia's Health Ministry as well as a team of immigration and police officers arrived at the hotel at about 2pm on Saturday.

According to the Kompas news report, the immigration department does not intend to take further action in relation to the raid.

Parkway Hospitals Singapore, which owns Gleneagles Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Hospital among others, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Parkway Pantai.

Among the people attending the event on Saturday were Gleneagles Hospital chief executive Vincent Chia as well as his Mount Elizabeth Hospital counterpart Phua Tien Beng.

Parkway Pantai is one of the largest private healthcare groups operating in Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, Brunei and the United Arab Emirates.

Indonesia is not mentioned in its company overview published on its website.

The South-east Asian nation with a population of 250 million, however, offers a huge and lucrative market for foreign healthcare players. These include doctors who run private practices or large healthcare groups in the region, especially those in Singapore, where thousands of wealthy Indonesians travel for consultations and treatments.

The IDI, however, has long taken issue with foreign doctors who are not registered in Indonesia headlining talks or seminars in the country.

It says this amounts to practising in the country without a medical licence.

IDI secretary-general Slamet Budiarto has said that it was common for foreign doctors to hold public seminars in Indonesia.

However, Dr Slamet, who also heads the Jakarta Chapter of the IDI, said yesterday that there are regulations in place that govern such practices in Indonesia.

For instance, foreign doctors practising in Indonesia must be registered with the Health Ministry, speak Bahasa Indonesia, and have a recommendation from the doctors' association in their home country.

Sweeping economic reforms announced in February are poised to free up more businesses for foreign players, including those in healthcare.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta shuts 'illegal' event by S'pore healthcare group'. Print Edition | Subscribe