KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Around 1,500 contract medical officers (MOs), who are among the frontliners managing the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, were reportedly left in shock when they learned that they could be unemployed in two years.
New Sunday Times reported that MOs from the May 15, 2017 cohort received letters from the Ministry of Health last week stating that their contracts had been renewed for two years — from May 15, 2020, to May 14, 2022 — on the UD41 civil service grade, after which no extensions would be given.
The English daily reported that a doctor from a government hospital in Johor said many of the MOs affected by this were dejected, especially those who have been directed to start work at the Sungai Buloh Hospital, next Monday.
“I am discharging my duties as a doctor and a Malaysian. I don’t work just to become a permanent staff. As long as I am employed by the ministry, I will give my best to the people.
“However, the same cannot be said of my colleagues. They are disappointed. Frustrated. Sad. Some say our efforts are not being appreciated.
“Those involved (to be stationed at Sungai Buloh) are busy packing up and arranging accommodations right now,” he told the daily.
The doctor further explained that the MOs were also worried because their salary and emoluments remained at the UD41 level despite taking on the same workload and responsibilities as doctors with a UD43/44 grade.
“Besides, contract MOs are not eligible to join the local universities’ Masters programme for specialisation. We are not eligible to receive government loans.
“Those in the Psychiatry and Radiology departments do not qualify for hazard leave. Upon completion of the two-year contract, no further contracts will be offered,” he said.
The doctor also shared on Facebook their reaction when they got the email notifying the matter.
“We will probably have no jobs in two years. We are doctors. In this time of need, we will do our best for the nation.
“Why does the government have to send us this email at this very crucial juncture, crushing our morale? As contract MOs, we’re focused on doing our duty to the people,” he asked on social media.
The doctor said when the contract system was first introduced in 2016, information was scarce and there was no clear information of a doctor’s career progression.
He said junior doctors were assured, then, that the “best talents” would be absorbed into the civil service as permanent staff, but no information was forthcoming on how the said best talents would be identified.
“We had no idea what happened after the end of the second contract. But we now know no further contracts will be offered. My heart sank when I read the email.”
Another MO from a hospital in Johor Bahru, on his Facebook wrote: “Today (the ministry) had quietly announced that the thousands of us contract MOs will be given another two years of the contract, and then all of us will be terminated.
“(The ministry said this was because) there are no more vacant posts.
“Meanwhile, my senior colleagues in other hospitals had been told by their superiors to continue to serve, and expect to do more jobs when we leave, even when the pay is small.
“The truth is, are we really equipped and staffed to provide this nation with the necessary public healthcare support?”
Contract MOs are junior doctors of service grade UD41 who have completed their housemanship.
Yesterday, Malay Mail reported that the Ministry of Health (MoH) had announced the policy internally on March 16, a day before the government issued a movement control order (MCO) to contain the spread of Covid-19 as it expects the number of infections to spike.
Under the new policy, medical officers (MO) employed from December 2019 will continue to remain at grade UD41 despite the pledge by MoH last year that they would be promoted to UD43, a grade signifying contract status but with higher pay.
In the past, an MO who has completed his or her housemanship is upgraded to UD44 with a basic pay hike of RM2,947 to RM3,611, to reflect the responsibility and workload.
UD41 medical officers also lose the RM600 flexi monthly allowance given to house officers — the annual salary differential between UD41 and UD43/44 officers is RM8,000, according to healthcare online magazine CodeBlue.