Career Guide

Ensuring public health safety

From a young age, Norhasniza Mohamad had always known that she wanted to one day work with the government. Born and bred in the historic state of Malacca, Norhasniza – the youngest of three siblings – obtained her bachelor of pharmacy from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2005.

A few years later, she decided to further her studies. This time, she decided to do something entirely different. Her interest led her to complete a master’s degree in enforcement law from Universiti Teknologi Mara in 2012. She is now a law enforcement officer with the Malacca state health department.

Duties of an officer

As a law enforcement officer, Norhasniza’s job requires multitasking. It seemed daunting at first, but seven years later, it is something which she has now mastered.

"Audits and inspections involving pharmaceutical factories, pharmacies and clinics are scheduled on a monthly basis." "Audits and inspections involving pharmaceutical factories, pharmacies and clinics are scheduled on a monthly basis."

The main part of her job consists of her carrying out inspections at licensed premises such as pharmacies, pharmaceutical factories and also any factory licensed by the Healty Ministry that deals with poisons.

“I also inspect registered premises such as private clinics and hospitals. Besides that, my surveillance also extends to unlicensed premises such as grocery stores, supermarkets, spas, gyms and medicine shops. The main objective is to ensure that premises that deal with drugs and medicines abide by the law enforced by the ministry.”

In addition to these, Norhasniza can be called to conduct sudden raids at any time of the day. Sometimes, this includes days when she is off duty. Usually, after a raid is conducted, an investigation follows.

“As head of the investigation and prosecution unit, I am responsible for checking the investigation papers before they are passed to the deputy public prosecutor to be registered in court. The main concerns are whether there is enough evidence to convict the perpetrator, whether the charge is correct and the investigation papers are in order.

Norhasniza is also head of internal audit for MS ISO 9001:2008 for the Department of Health, Malacca. Her responsibility is to ensure that the internal audit is carried out twice a year and the standard operating procedures are adhered to by all the employees.

A typical work day

It is difficult to say that a law enforcement officer has a routine because the scenario depends on whether sudden situations arise.

However, on a typical day that has no sudden outbursts, Norhasniza begins work at 8:30am. She checks her planner on her tasks for the day. She then goes through her emails and responds to them, focusing on the ones that need immediate action.

Meetings and discussions with superiors and colleagues are usually scheduled in the morning. If there are meetings that require her attendance, that would take up most of her morning.

“After that, I am busy with inspections. Audits and inspections involving pharmaceutical factories, pharmacies and clinics are scheduled on a monthly basis. These inspections and audits can sometimes take a long time to complete, especially when discrepancies are found.

“Reports need to be written for all inspections and audits. If a raid is carried out, then an investigation file is prepared. This file will then be handed over to an investigation officer who will do the necessary to complete the investigation.”

If the investigation leads to a court case, then more time will be required as the trial for the case will take at least two days.

Most days, after all these, Norhasniza’s time will be taken up by conducting exhibitions and giving talks to the public about the quality of medicines and how to recognise the registered products and those that are sold illegally. Amidst all of these, she will also be closely monitoring advertisements that deal with medicines and licensed drugs.

“I receive complaints from the public on certain products from time to time. In order to verify these complaints, I need to purchase these products for analysis in our forensic laboratory. Sex stimulants and slimming products are the most popular items on the complaint list.”

Applicants applying for licences to sell medicines tend to drop by the office occasionally for updates on their application. They need to know when their premises will be inspected, prior to getting an approval. Applicants usually comprise community pharmacies, factories and wholesalers. Norhasniza’s day usually ends late in the evening. If an emergency arises, she has to settle that before heading home.

Managing obstacles

Every job has its own challenges and this one is no exception. According to Norhasniza, like all other public departments, her department also faces a shortage of manpower and resources. There are still a lot of unregistered products being sold everywhere. As long as there is demand for them, they will continue to be available, thus frequent checks are necessary.

Another challenge she faces is the struggle to change the consumer mindset. Educating the public is an important step towards eradicating unregistered products from the market. Norhasniza believes this can be done only through raising awareness – hence the need to hold talks and exhibitions.

“The most challenging part for me is facing perpetrators during raids and prosecutions. You never know how they will react. One incident I will never forget is when we raided a house in a kampung; the father of the perpetrator became very angry and took out a parang. Thankfully his wife calmed him down,” reminisces Norhasniza.

The dedicated officer is optimistic that her department can achieve greater heights as they all work hard as a team. Being able to contribute to the department and watch it progress and keep moving forward gives her much satisfaction and motivation. Norhasniza believes good leadership, willingness to be bold and accepting responsibilities will drive her department forward.

An impassioned vocation

“I have learned that one has to be sensitive towards the needs of the public. Enforcement work is not a ‘likeable’ job because it involves confiscating products from traders and business owners and ultimately prosecuting them in court. Losses to them can sometimes be quite substantial. Thus, enforcement officers need to be professional and at the same time respect others. Upholding integrity is absolutely necessary as it is expected by the public.”

Norhasniza feels that an enforcement officer has to be assertive and effective. She emphasises that officers should never abuse the power bestowed on them and should make the right decisions at all times.

“Though my job tends to get hectic at times, I am very contented with it as it gives me the satisfaction of knowing that what I am doing will help save lives and the public is assured that someone is looking out for them.”