KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — A doctors’ group criticised the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Public Service Department (JPA) for introducing a contract system for medical officers without seeking their views first.
The Malaysian Medics International (MMI) — a group of Malaysian doctors and medical students worldwide — said the press conference by Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad and other senior MOH officials last Friday did not reveal anything new or provide any concrete answers.
“It is upsetting that the contract medical officer’s input and concerns on the matter were never sought by the government before announcing the system despite being the one implicated the most.
“Hence, we would like the Ministry of Health as well the Public Service Department’s input on these pressing issues. Till then, we find that the contract system for medical officers is unfair and unjust for those implicated and alike,” MMI said in a statement.
Last Friday, Dzulkefly repeated his previous statements in Parliament that MOH could no longer guarantee permanent employment to medical officers, who may be reappointed on contract to serve the government for a mandatory two years instead. These junior doctors were told that after their compulsory service with MOH, they could seek jobs in public university hospitals or in the private sector.
MOH also confirmed last week that all contract medical officers would continue their two-year mandatory service on housemen’s UD41 civil service grade, instead of being promoted like their permanent counterparts to UD44. Almost half of the first two batches of contract housemen from the December 2016 and February 2017 cohorts, or 461 people, were reappointed as contract medical officers from December 2019 to December 2021.
MMI expressed other concerns besides the unequal salaries and postgraduate study opportunities between UD41 and UD44 officers. UD44 officers have a higher starting monthly salary of RM3,611 with an RM250 annual increment, compared to UD41 medical officers with an RM225 yearly increment and a possible starting monthly salary of RM3,397 (drawn from the last year of their previous three-year housemanship contract).
Contract junior doctors also cannot do their Master’s to get into specialisation, due to a government requirement that medical officers hold a permanent position for three years.
MMI said medical officers’ contract status would subject them to the regulations of “Pekeliling Perkhidmatan Bilangan 2 Tahun 2008”, which indicated a discrepancy on leave and emoluments between contract and permanent staff.
Contract officers can face termination if they exceed 75 days of sick leave.
“The questions remain on doctors who contracted tuberculosis, or any other illness would that the required treatment of more than 75 days would their service be then terminated,” MMI said.
The doctors’ group questioned if contract officers would receive reparations in the event of injury or death in the line of duty, or if contract doctors would be covered by the government, like their permanent counterparts, in any lawsuits filed against them.
MMI also asked if contract medical officers were entitled to be upgraded from UD41 to UD48 after five years of service as contract officers.
“There is still a lack of opportunity as well as financial resources for contract officers to pursue postgraduate studies, especially with surgical-based speciality despite the introduction of a parallel pathway,” said MMI.
“Of course, the matter of transparency with relating to the appointment of permanent officers remains as the major issue and the matter has been brought up for the umpteenth time.”