GEORGE TOWN, May 12 — There are no proper channels for junior doctors in Malaysia to submit their complaints to the authorities on bullying, said Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy.
He believed that bullying in government hospitals exists due to the hierarchical nature of the medical profession at hospitals.
“At hospitals, housemen are not just subjected to the hierarchical power relationship between senior doctors and housemen but their future medical career depends on it,” he said in a statement today.
He said it is their total vulnerability to their superiors that is the main cause of their helplessness and degradation.
The lawmaker pointed to the implementation of mechanisms at public hospitals in the United Kingdom that successfully brought bullying under control there.
He said there are mechanisms and procedures available for housemen to register their complaints that would be seriously investigated and action taken.
“It is this fear, the absence of rigid hierarchy and the need for accountability that have prevented excessive bullying in public hospitals in the UK,” he said.
Ramasamy said government hospitals are like the cockpits in aircraft.
He said it was found that some aircraft crashed in the past due to a lack of straightforward and honest communication between the captains and junior pilots in the cockpit.
“Cultural hierarchy prevented the first officers from conveying the impending danger to their captains.
The captains in turn never bothered to listen to their junior co-pilots,” he said.
Similarly, at government hospitals, he said bullying takes place because of this hierarchy where there is no sensible or rational communication between the juniors and seniors.
He expressed his surprise that the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai wanted a definition of what constitutes bullying before taking a deeper look at the prevalence of the phenomenon.
“In my opinion, such a move is basically an attempt to obfuscate the phenomenon,” he said.
He pointed out that the term bullying is commonly accepted without even a definition.
“What is the problem with MMA then; are they in the process of writing a research paper?” he asked.
He accused MMA of wanting to sweep the bullying issue under the carpet by making claims that there were only a few instances of bullying and that the term needs proper definition.
“Perhaps if they are really concerned, they need to find out the cultural underpinnings of bullying,” he said.