KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 – A gynaecologist has reminisced about his experience as an overworked and underpaid contract medical officer during his seven years with the Ministry of Health (MOH) three decades ago.
Calling it a nightmare, Dr John Teo, who is based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, posted on his Facebook page that he returned to Malaysia to do his housemanship and medical officers’ training after studying overseas.
He then left for UK for specialist training, and returned to Malaysia to complete his specialist gazettement.
“The reason I was on contract was because I didn’t have my SPM BM as I studied overseas after Form 4 but please, this is not a post about BM,” he said.
Dr Teo listed the disadvantages he faced as a contract officer, which included not getting into any recognised specialist training posts in Malaysia; not being entitled to numerous benefits that permanent posts are entitled to, such as loans; receiving lower pay than those in permanent posts; resigning from the government to pursue his specialist training; and not being eligible for any scholarships or unpaid leave.
“When I returned with my specialist degree, have to start with bottom rung scale, same as 1st year houseman. In fact what I was doing was specialist work for the two years of gazettement with far more responsibilities and work hours but getting actually LESS take-home pay from my 1st year houseman under my charge as their active on-call allowance comes up to be more than mine!
“After I was gazetted, I still get much lower pay than my colleagues on permanent posts, up to 1 to 2K difference per month including entitlements,” he added.
Dr Teo stated that being a contract officer with a lower pay grade was “slavery” and a “nightmare”.
“Those on contract posts are really the workhorse, underappreciated, outcasts and always have to work more and more because contracts can be not renewed anytime.”Dr John Teo, obstetrician & gynaecologist
Faced with an uncertain future with the lack of permanent posts, Dr Teo said he quit his government job two decades ago and joined the private sector.
“Point in case, contract posts are no good and yes it’s just slavery. I would have thought after 20 years I left the MOH, the nightmare would never return for any one and doctors should have better conditions and more secure future. But alas! 500 Drs were forced into contract recently and many more very soon,” he said.
Calling it an unfairness, he called upon all to fight to end contract posts for struggling doctors.
Last Friday, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad 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 that comes with a bigger salary. Contract medical officers are also unable to pursue their Master’s to be specialists because three years’ experience in a permanent medical officer post is required.