The interest of students at the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine (PUGSOM) should be safeguarded, the RM2.3 billion Perdana University campus project should be put on hold

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 18th of August 2014

It was reported today that as of the 31st of July, 2014, “Johns Hopkins, its faculty and its curriculum are no longer associated with PUGSOM”[1] due to late payments to the Johns Hopkins faculty who were based in the Perdana University campus in Serdang and also non-payment to Johns Hopkins for 12 months under the service agreement with PUGSOM.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak launched the Perdana University with great fanfare on the 12th of September 2011.[2] During this speech, the Prime Minister announced the first intake of 30 students for the PUGSOM program. It was also announced later that up to 50 students per year were to be funded by JPA scholarships.[3] This program is estimated to cost up to RM1 million per student.[4]

The first cohort for the PUGSOM program is expected to graduate only in 2015. With the announcement of the withdrawal of the Johns Hopkins faculty and its curriculum, the first responsibility of the university and the government of Malaysia is to find a fair and transparent manner to ensure that current cohorts under the PUGSOM program will be able to graduate.[5] One must remember that the PUGSOM program is a GRADUATE program meaning that the current students already have a degree. Medical school in the United States, like law school, is a post-graduate degree and only those who have an undergraduate degree can apply for these programs. The solution may not be as simple as to suggest a transfer of these PUGSOM students to the Perdana-University – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (PU-RCSI) 5 year undergraduate medical degree program. Proper consultation must be held with the stakeholders especially the students and their parents.

The government should also immediately stop sending new JPA students to Perdana University for the PUGSOM program as well as the PU-RSCI program especially if the ability of the owner of Perdana University – Academic Medical Center Sdn Bhd – to continue as a going concern is questionable. According to the financial accounts submitted to the Companies Commission, Academic Medical Center Sdn Bhd had negative reserves of RM189 million and it made a loss of RM63.6 million as of 2013 year end. The welfare of our current and future medical students must not be jeopardized or taken lightly.

Finally, the government should immediately stop putting any government funding into the RM2.3 billion public Private Partnership Project to construct the Perdana University campus which includes a 600 bed teaching hospital.[6] The fact that this project was allocated to Chase Perdana, the parent company of Academic Medical Center – raises many questions as to why a construction company was given the land and license to operate a medical university and why the construction of this university campus had to be awarded to the parent company of Academic Medical Center.

I myself have had the opportunity to interact on an informal basis with some of the Johns Hopkins faculty at the Perdana University and found them to be very passionate about teaching and also wanting to embrace the opportunity to do research in Malaysia. It is clear, from this blog posting, for example, that the Johns Hopkins faculty wanted to challenge the students in the PUGSOM program to ask more questions and to think more critically for themselves.[7] Unfortunately, these faculty members will no longer have this opportunity and students at PUGSOM will no longer have access to them.

I sincerely hope this is not another example of a Public Pirate Partnership masquerading as a Public Private Partnership where the private party involved gets to reap all the financial benefits with the Public having to bear the ultimate cost.