Deregistered cosmetic doctor resigns as adviser to Malaysia agency handling Covid-19 innovations following flak

The Malaysian Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute appointed Dr Faizal Anwar (extreme left) as its medical and health data adviser. PHOTO: MARIIMALAYSIA/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR - A deregistered cosmetic surgeon who was hired as a medical adviser at a Malaysian government agency involved in Covid-19 innovations has resigned from his post after receiving flak over his appointment.

The Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (Marii), an agency under the International Trade and Industry Ministry, said Dr Faizal Anwar has tendered his resignation with immediate effect.

"We express our appreciation for his services in areas related to data-driven health management systems and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours," it said in a statement on Sunday (June 27).

The resignation came days after Marii courted controversy for hiring Dr Faizal, who was struck off the medical registers in both Malaysia and Australia, as its adviser.

Marii appointed Dr Faizal as its medical and health data adviser and, in April, rolled out the ImmuSAFE Covid+ biochip that the health ministry will use to verify vaccine efficacy.

Some people on social media as well as an opposition figure have claimed this is the same Dr Faizal who was sued by at least a dozen women in Australia for botching cosmetic operations in 2017. He was deregistered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

He was fined A$100,000 (S$101,700) by the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in 2018.

"The public demands an explanation as to why not only was a cosmetic surgeon appointed to lead a programme concerning public health, and a highly controversial one at that, with a track record of malpractice which is well known both in Malaysia and Australia," said Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Perak state chief Farhash Mubarak.

Marii chief executive Madani Sahari clarified that Dr Faizal was not paid by the agency and his role was only to advise on medical terminology and literature.

"He's not directly involved in developing the test kits as claimed (by critics) and he only appeared on (TV news channel) Astro Awani's Notepad With Ibrahim Sani just in case I couldn't answer medically related questions," he told The Straits Times.

The episode, which was aired on June 24, has been taken down from the news channel's website.

Netizens have said it is alarming that such a disgraced practitioner is among the agency's point of reference.

MMC has also confirmed with ST that Dr Faizal was struck off under Section 30 (i) of the Medical Act and can no longer practice.
"If he is still practising, it is an offence and legal action can be taken (against him)," MMC told ST.

Dr Faizal, who moved to Melbourne in 2015, was deregistered by the Australian health authorities in August 2017 due to fears over patient safety. He was charged in the same month with continuing to treat patients at a clinic, which allegedly left them with horrible scars and deformities.

The Sunday Herald Sun reported that several patients allegedly had foreign objects inserted into their noses or ears as fillings, which caused infections and foul smell. Surgeons who removed the foreign objects could not identify the material.

While struck-off medical practitioners are allowed to work as consultants in Malaysia, they are barred from directly treating patients.

An MMC member, who declined to be named, told ST: "It (the appointment) reflects poorly on the organisation... The main issue is of public trust in an important matter being jeopardised by appointing a medical professional who has been struck off in Malaysia and fined for performing medical procedures in Australia without any licence."

Putrajaya Hospital consultant physician and nephrologist Rafidah Abdullah tweeted: "If you want to appoint a medical adviser, please check the qualifications and background. Don't hire those who are not experts, what more, those who have been charged with medical malpractice."

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