KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — Unequal pay between contractual and permanent medical officers (MOs) and shorter service at public health institution that reduces their work experience are just some of the issues plaguing Malaysia’s health sector.
As public complaints grow, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today urged the government to address these issues to improve their sector.
Its Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists chairman Dr Kevin Ng said the pay discrepancy for contractual officers in the UD41 category and permanent staff classified as UD41 upon completing their housemanship is not very big, but added that the difference is demoralising.
“It reaches up to RM400. But increasing the pay for contractuals would be a recognition of them completing their training to become MOs,” he told a press conference at the MMA headquarters along Jalan Pahang here.
Dr Ng said the lower pay for UD41 officers who have completed their housemanship is discriminatory and has a profound negative effect on many of them.
“We are of the opinion that double standards do no justice to the doctors involved and should be rectified immediately, as it is demoralising and creates undue stress for contractual MOs,” he said.
The MMA also recommended that the obligatory serving period for all officers to be extended.
Currently after two years of housemanship, MOs undergo another two years of service before being released to pursue their own career.
“After the two years of service, the government says they are not obliged to continue the MOs’ contract. But our stand is that the contract should be continued so as to facilitate MOs in their training to become specialists.
“One would need at least four to five years of medical experience in order to become a specialist. Coupled with the housemanship period, this means around seven to eight years in total,” Dr Ng said.
The relatively short obligatory service period denies MOs the opportunity to choose their preferred specialisation, which he said is unfair.
“If you do not give the opportunity, you will miss those who have the potential to become excellent specialists,” Dr Ng said, adding this also proves to be problematic for those seeking to pursue their masters, since it is necessary to have four years of practical training before doing so.
The MMA also want an increase in permanent positions for MOs, pleading with the Public Service Department and Finance Ministry to aid the Health Ministry in this.
“The honourable minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly had requested Cabinet for 21,000 new positions, but was instead rejected and ask to reconsider his proposal.
“For example, 1,000 student doctors from the first cohort have to wait at least six months before knowing if they will get permanent positions. If there were enough positions then all would be absorbed and move on,” Dr Ng said.
This in turn would clear up the backlog of those waiting for their turn, enabling more housemen to be taken in.
“This will have ramifications for the rakyat, as with the existing workforce we are already faced with increased waiting times, burnout and physical fatigue.
“If there is no increase in staffing to help alleviate the current situation, we would see a delay in the implementation of universal healthcare and a possible stagnation in our government healthcare goals,” Dr Ng said.
MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said many public sector doctors are already facing serious emotional and psychological stress due to the job requirements.
“You can see this in young doctors. They work their guts out in hospitals, doing overtime and stressing themselves.
“But as professionals we must look after our honour. We cannot strike by the road to show our emotions,” he said.
Dr Ganabaskaran pleaded with the other ministries to assist the Health Ministry in dealing with this.
“Our frustrations are very clear to see. If one feels they are not paid enough or overworked, then they simply move on, to the detriment of everyone,” he said.