MALAYSIA — In response to the recent contract doctors’ strike in the country, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has announced the government’s plan to absorb a total of 12,800 contract doctors into permanent positions within the next three years.
Mr Anwar also asked contract doctors nationwide to be patient and understand the government’s financial limitations in absorbing them for permanent positions under the Health Ministry.
He highlighted that the government has allocated RM19.7 billion (approximately US$4.4 billion) in emolument through the Budget 2023, which includes RM1.2 billion for pay rise, RM600 million for contract appointments, and RM1.1 billion for absorption to permanent positions.
“Of this RM3bil additional allocation, RM1.2bil was allocated for pay rise, RM600mil for contract appointment and RM1.1bil for absorption to permanent positions.”
“For 2023, it means that a total of RM1.7bil is allocated for recruiting more contract doctors and to absorb existing ones to permanent positions,” he added.
Mr Anwar was responding to Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Madius Tangau’s question during the Prime Minister’s Question Time on Tuesday (4 Apr morning.
The MP questioned the total of contract doctors absorbed as permanent positions and the financial implications of this exercise.
Mr Anwar acknowledged the demands of contract doctors but explained that the government cannot solve the issue immediately as it is a long-delayed problem.
“So that’s why I’m pleading [with the contract doctors], while the demands are reasonable, that they have worked for a long time, the problem has also been delayed for a long time.”
“If this can be solved in three years’ time, it will make it possible for us to absorb 12,800 contract doctors [in that period], because we have absorbed 4,300 contract doctors this year as the total is 20,333 doctors in training — 12,800 are housemen, that is not included in this category, ” he added.
He also announced that an additional allowance will be given because the current allowance does not include those working in health clinics or emergency departments.
“the government has agreed to extend the allowance for medical officers who are on-call duty in health clinics and emergency departments, hospitals, and during extended hours. ”
Anwar expressed his gratitude to contract doctors for their willingness to serve, despite their weariness in waiting to be absorbed into permanent positions.
Contract doctor strike group considers the ongoing strike as an ‘early warning’
Last week, a group of Malaysian doctors claimed that over 8,000 contract doctors are going on strike from 3 to 5 April by taking Medical/ Emergency leave as a protest against the unfair system and low wages.
Prior to the strike, the group had released a memorandum calling on the Malaysian government to fulfil their six demands before 1 April 2023.
Their demands include the absorption of all contract medical officers into permanent positions, increased medical officer (MO) basic salary and on-call rates, and reduced working and on-call hours for MOs and medical officer graduates.
On Tuesday, the spokesman of the group to Malaysia media New Straits Times, that their strike on the first day was successful, despite hospital managements nationwide claiming that there were no changes in daily operations.
The group’s spokesperson said that the patient rate was reduced by 30% yesterday (3 Mar), which made the number of personnel adequate even without contract doctors.
However, according to the spokesperson, Some medical officers had to carry out housemen duties due to doctors taking leave in conjunction with the strike, contributing to the strike’s success.
The group considers the ongoing strike an early warning to the Health Ministry and warns that the next strike will be “more devastating” if they don’t treat contract doctors properly.
Even though the group might not get most of the contract doctors involved in the strike, they are satisfied that they could at least bring the issues of contract doctors to the eyes of the public and the politicians in power.
“We are not anti-government, just anti-discrimination against the contract doctors,” the spokesperson said.
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, demanding job security and better working conditions.