MALAYSIA — A group of Malaysian doctors has claimed that over 8,000 contract doctors are going on strike from 3 to 5 April and advised the public to avoid visiting public hospitals and health clinics for routine treatments during that time as they might expect a long wait.
The claim was made via an Instagram account named “Mogok Doktor Malaysia” (Malaysian Doctors on Strike), stating that around 8,000 contract doctors are going on job strike by taking Medical/ Emergency leave, as a protest against the unfair system and low wages.
“Respected people of Malaysia, you are advised not to go to any public hospitals and health clinics from 3rd to 5th of April. ”
“More than 8,000 contract doctors will be on strike by not showing up to work in demand for permanent appointments and an increase in on-call wages from RM9 per hour. Waiting times at hospitals are expected to be longer than usual. Please take note.”
The group urged contract doctors to participate in the strike by applying for Medical/ Emergency leave but does not encourage demonstrations or flash mobs.
“For those who want to resign, can do a mass resign on 1 April 2023,” the group wrote in another post.
Not the first time Malaysia’s contract doctors had to resort to protest to address their issue
Malaysia’s contract doctors have been resorting to strikes and protests to demand better employment terms for some time now.
On 26 July 2021, a group of junior contract doctors launched the “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” movement by walking out of their posts at several hospitals and health facilities nationwide at 11 a.m.
Dressed in black and carrying placards, they demanded job security and better working conditions. This strike was part of an ongoing campaign by contract doctors in Malaysia to address these issues.
In a statement on the group’s Instagram, they said since the contract doctor system was introduced in the late of 2016, they have never stopped voicing out the problems, and KKM (Malaysia’s Ministry of Health) has been given the same promises and statements repeatedly for the past 7 years.
But recently, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has told that only 17% of contract doctors were given permanent posts, and majority 83% of them were denied from getting permanent posts.
“This is totally unacceptable, especially when there is no clear, transparent selection criterias for the posts were stated by KKM.”
It is believed that the protest could paralyse the country’s health system, which is used by approximately 80 per cent of the country’s 33.4 million population, especially the B40 group, which totals 8.7 million people.
The dissatisfaction among medical workers, especially contract doctors, hit a new high when a letter went viral showing that the Public Service Department (JPA) had refused to consider the payment rate for the ‘on call’ system of 50 per cent.
Low basic salary and on-call rates for contract doctors
The group had earlier published a memorandum, urging the Malaysia’s Government to fulfill their six demand before 1 April 2023, or the Contract Doctor Strike will take place throughout Malaysia.
Their demands include:
- Absorb all contract medical officers into permanent positions without any conditions or interviews.
- Increase basic salary and on-call rates for medical specialists with medical officers. Medical officers: RM40 per hour, medical specialists: RM100 per hour.
- Address the problem of shortages of medical specialists, medical officers, and medical officer graduates immediately. Reduce the mandatory service of a medical officer to 3 years automatically without any application.
- Reduce working and on-call hours for medical officers and medical officer graduates.
- Oncalls cannot exceed 6 times per month, working hours cannot exceed 60 hours per week.
- Approve relocation to home regions after 2 years of service in Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan without any conditions.
Medical Association: Understands group’s feeling, but do not condone strike
Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai, president of the Malaysian Medical Association(MMA), urged that Malaysia Government should take a planned strike as a wake-up call to urgently address the issues faced by contract doctors.
In an opinion letter published in The Star, Dr Muruga emphasized that the government should not be surprised by the strike, as the frustration felt by the doctors has reached a breaking point.
While the MMA understands the grievances of the contract doctors, he stressed that the association does not condone a strike as a means to address their issues.
“It is understandable why this route is being taken. Past and present governments have not been able to address the contract doctors issues and they feel they are getting nowhere. It is hard for them to go about their duties with this feeling of uncertainty.”
He agreed that progress has been unsatisfactory, although MMA has also fought hard for contract doctors’ issues.
“Past and present governments have not been able to adequately help the contract doctors especially on the issue of permanent positions that has dragged on for years.”
However, Dr Muruga advised the group not to proceed with the strike as it can affect patient care at public healthcare facilities, and cause colleagues to take on additional responsibilities at our already overcrowded public healthcare facilities.
“At the same time, we urge the government to speed up their delivery on promises to help the contract doctors. The contract doctors have waited too long. Let’s work towards solutions now before there is more brain drain.”
Malaysia losing some of its “best and brightest” medical graduates to Singapore annually
Last year, Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, former Universiti Malaya (UM) medical faculty dean, warned that Malaysia is losing some of its “best and brightest” medical graduates to Singapore annually.
She claimed that at least 30 UM medical graduates per year choose to undergo houseman training in Singapore instead of Malaysia.
“I don’t blame my young colleagues at all. I, too, would go where the opportunities are. We are failing them. How can we expect to build a resilient and world-class health system when we have this continuous internal and external brain drain?”
We will continue to have this problem forever, until we are serious about addressing the health care workers’ issues in 🇲🇾 – doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. For a start we can perhaps look at urgently plugging the brain drain of fresh medical graduates and MOs; https://t.co/322A4tFsuW
— Adeeba Kamarulzaman (@ProfAdeeba) December 22, 2022