Medical Officers Reappointed On Contract Given Houseman Salary

Only about half who applied received permanent positions as medical officers.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 – Medical officers reappointed on contract from December 2019 to December 2021 were retained on housemen’s pay grade, unlike their counterparts in permanent positions, a physician claimed.

Dr Pagalavan Letchumanan, a consultant physician and rheumatologist at Columbia Asia Hospital Nusajaya, wrote on his blog yesterday that in the first batch of contract housemen who completed their two-year housemanship in December 2018, only about 500 out of almost 1,000 applicants received permanent posts as medical officers, while some 50 received an extension of contract, citing a June 18, 2019 letter from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

He said he heard last September that another 175 received an extension of contract.

Then Dr Pagalavan said he was informed that junior doctors on their first three-year contract (December 5 2016 to December 4 2019), who got their contracts extended, received their official contract two weeks ago stating that their service would be from December 5 2019 to December 4 2021.

He cited a redacted document of the reappointment contract which stated that the appointee would serve as a Grade UD41 medical officer with MOH throughout the length of service in the next two years. The monthly salary in the contract mentioned was RM2,947.

“So, the total contract years will be 5 years,” said Dr Pagalavan.

“The shocking part, which I never expected was the fact that THIS CONTRACT KEEPS THEM AT THE SAME PAY GRADE AS A HOUSEMEN, WHICH IS U41, contrary to my understanding that it should have been U44!!!”

The UD44 pay grade in the civil service was replaced with UD43 since 2017. According to the Public Services Commission (PSC) website, the pay grade of UD41 has a salary range of RM2,947 to RM9,656 with an annual increment of RM225; whereas the UD43 pay grade has a salary range of RM3,611 to RM10,560 with a yearly increase of RM250.

“If a person is going to work as a medical officer and doing the same job as another permanent U44 officer, they should receive the same pay!”

Dr Pagalavan Letchumanan, consultant physician

“Yes, they should thank their lucky stars that they have a job but we should never discriminate them by paying them lower than the rest.

“Unless you are transparent enough to say publicly than these guys had such a poor performance that they are not fit to hold a U44 post (that we are just doing a charity work by extending their contract to complete their compulsory service), everyone should be treated the same,” Dr Pagalavan wrote.

Dr Pagalavan added that before 2010, the practice was for doctors to remain in U41 (or U3 as it was known before 2001) for a few years after completing housemanship with just annual increments.

“But in 2010, under the new promotional prospect for doctors in civil service (which I personally wrote during a SCHOMOS forum with KKM in 2006), all those who complete housemanship will be promoted to U44 from the day of receiving full registration,” he added, referring to a forum by the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialist (SCHOMOS).

Dr Pagalavan further alleged that the PSC or the Public Service Department (JPA) have been asking to remove the two-year compulsory government medical service for doctors as they are aware of the lack of positions for these doctors, but the suggestion has been refused by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

“For those who are unaware, SPA/JPA has been requesting to remove compulsory service over the past few years as they know they can’t provide jobs to everyone. However, it will be a disaster to do so, with many having a license to kill, out there. Completing housemanship do not make you competent enough to manage patients without any supervision.

“MMC has refused to comply to their request as it affects public safety. MMC’s motto is ‘safeguarding patients and guiding doctors’,” he expounded.

Dr Pagalavan previously wrote in 2006 that based on MOH’s projections on its vacancies and the number of medical officers, a 2.4 per cent surplus of doctors was estimated in 2009, expanding to a projected 15 per cent surplus in 2010.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad recently announced that medical officers may be on contract during their entire two-year mandatory service with the government if they fail to get a permanent appointment.

Medical graduates can only do their two-year training, or housemanship, in government hospitals (housemen who can’t complete their training within two years may be allowed to finish it in the third year), after which medical officers are required by law to serve the government for two years. Only medical officers who hold a permanent position for three years are allowed to study their Master’s to get into specialisation, during which they get paid a regular salary by MOH. Private hospitals do not provide medical training and they mostly hire specialists.

Dzulkefly told Parliament that contract medical officers who complete their mandatory service in MOH without getting a permanent position can seek work in other government agencies like public university hospitals, the private sector, and companies like private medical labs and pharmaceutical corporations.

He also told Parliament that as of August 31 this year, 15,246 UD41 medical officers have been appointed on contract since 2016, while another 4,202 UD41 medical officers were appointed on contract this year. Another 2,151 medical graduates waiting for housemanship slots will be placed between November and February 2020.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr John Teo has warned the government that thousands of young doctors may possibly become unemployed or work in unrelated fields.

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