PUTRAJAYA, Nov 8 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed today that almost half of the first two batches of contract housemen were appointed as medical officers on contract.
Out of the December 2016 and February 2017 cohorts of contract trainee doctors, 461 were reappointed as contract medical officers from December 2019 to December 2021 to undergo their compulsory two-year service with the government, all of whom were given the UD41 grade in the civil service.
A total of 571 people from those two contract housemen batches, or 55 per cent, were given permanent posts as medical officers in MOH with a higher UD44 grade and bigger salary.
“Officers’ salaries in the second contract are determined based on the final salary from their previous contract, which takes into account the salary movements that the officer is eligible for in their three-year contract,” Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told a press conference here today, referring to the junior doctors’ first three-year contract during their housemanship.
“During this second contract, officers are still eligible for an annual salary increment of RM225.”
Zainal Seman, under-secretary of MOH’s Human Resources Division, said a UD41 officer’s monthly salary in their last year of their first contract could be RM3,397, noting that the difference with a UD44 officer was “not a lot”.
According to the Public Services Commission (PSC) website, the UD43 pay grade (or UD44) has a starting salary of RM3,611, with an RM250 annual increment.
Dzulkefly said the federal government was now considering MOH’s application to create 10,675 vacancies in new facilities and those undergoing upgrades, after MOH was asked to review its July 2018 request for 21,741 job positions.
“Like what I said before, the Ministry is only obliged to provide job positions for housemanship and compulsory service.”Dzulkefly Ahmad, Health Minister
“For permanent posts, MOH can no longer fully absorb all house officers who completed their training among students who were sponsored or not by the government because this is subject to job vacancies in health facilities.
“New permanent positions are created based on certain criteria; our work needs do not take into account the supply of medical graduates,” Dzulkefly said, as he encouraged medical officers who failed to obtain permanent posts in MOH to seek jobs in public university hospitals or in the private sector.
According to the minister, 6,307 medical students were offered contract housemanship from January to November this year, while 1,152 students are still waiting to be placed for training.
When asked if MOH would ask the Education Ministry to halt all medical intakes in public universities two years from now to plug the excess supply of medical graduates, MOH director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there is an existing moratorium on new medical programmes and new medical schools.
“We can’t stop [intakes]. If you stop there’ll be a gap,” Dr Noor Hisham said. “Unless, IPTA (public universities) want to decrease the intake rather than to stop all together.”
Doctors have urged the government to stop the supply of medical graduates altogether, with obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr John Teo pointing out that 5,000 new doctors enter the system every year. Consultant physician Dr Pagalavan Letchumanan predicted even back in 2006 about the incoming glut of medical graduates, noting 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.
Dzulkefly said today that he has already commissioned his Health Advisory Council (HAC) to look at a long-term solution to the glut of medical graduates.
“At a longer term timeline, I’ve got my HAC to address this for an end solution, first quarter next year, we’re able to address this.”
When asked if MOH would consider getting private hospitals to provide housemanships, Dzulkefly said this depended on these facilities getting enough specialists, a case mix, and other requirements to be a training hospital.
When asked if MOH would consider allowing contract medical officers to pursue their Master’s to specialise, since this is only permitted to medical officers in permanent posts for three years, Dr Noor Hisham said the waiting time to join the Master’s programme is already quite long.
“It’s not only after housemanship you can do your master’s. You still have to serve a few years before you can do so. We’ll give priority to seniors, those who have served in the Ministry of Health to do their Master’s programme,” he said, adding that the annual intake for the Master’s programme was 1,200 students.
Dr Noor Hisham said contract medical officers can join the “alternative pathway” in which MOH works with UK and Australian colleges on four-year post-graduate programmes based in Malaysia, such as neurology, cardiothoracic, and the latest, family medicine, where graduates can be awarded Irish College of GP.
“Even those in Master’s can sit for a double degree — master’s degree and alternative pathway.”