KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has released a circular to detail which public health care workers qualify for the special RM600 monthly coronavirus allowance and the claims process.
According to a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) by MOH’s Human Resources Division dated March 30, as sighted by CodeBlue, beneficiaries must claim for the RM600 Covid-19 allowance by the 10th of the next month; only one claim per month is allowed.
One can claim for the full RM400 Covid-19 allowance (the original rate when it was introduced last February) if one works at least 15 days in one calendar month, or RM200 if one works fewer days, from February 1 to March 31.
The new RM600 rate applies to duties starting today, with the full amount granted for at least 15 days’ work in one calendar month, or RM300 for fewer days’ work.
Off days, for example weekends, are not counted in days of work for eligibility of the Covid-19 allowance. But one working three hours a day for 15 days in a month can receive the full coronavirus allowance, according to the MOH FAQ. One working for just three days in a month can get half the coronavirus allowance.
“However, department heads are encouraged to prepare optimum duty schedules to ensure prudent expenditure,” said MOH.
Those working from one calendar month to another will receive half the Covid-19 allowance for each month if the days of work are fewer than 15 in that month.
“The calculation is based on the number of working days in a calendar month, whether consecutive or not,” said MOH. “Each duty, whether on call, standby, or shift, is also counted as one day’s work.”
A doctor working at the Emergency and Trauma Department (ETD) in a government hospital in Sarawak told CodeBlue that ETD staff were deprived of the special Covid-19 allowance as they were not considered part of the coronavirus team, even though emergency workers in protective gear see all severe acute respiratory infection patients. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease.
“So if Covid suspected, then [they’re] sent to the Covid area. But we are not stationed there every time. So only get to count the days you are stationed in the Covid area,” said the doctor, on condition of anonymity. “The fever counter is only occupied if patients straightforward need the swabs taken or have the contact history.”
The Covid-19 area is where patients with overseas travel history or other coronavirus risk factors are seen for further history-taking. ETD staff, said the doctor, only get seven to eight shifts a month in Covid-19 stations, which means they don’t qualify for the full coronavirus allowance.
The doctor said the medical assistant, staff nurse, houseman, and medical officer in ETD should receive the Covid-19 allowance.
“Most hospitals have decided only this special force team that sits and meet everyday aircond and the delegated Covid medical officers be given this allowance, while the staff of the emergency department which supposedly sees every patient before they are triaged to the Covid stations aren’t eligible for this amount, staff that gown up daily seeing patients with probable history aren’t eligible for this amount, staff that end up intubating patients with this probable histories are not eligible for this amount,” said the doctor.
“I for one don’t see the Pengarah [hospital director] or the special force team down suited up everyday facing these patients.”
According to the doctor, the Covid-19 team works 12-hour shifts for seven days straight, then get quarantined for four to seven days, after which they join their respective departments for two weeks, then subsequently return to the fever clinic for another week. This means that their eligible days of work falls short of the minimum 15 days in a calendar month for the full allowance.
“It’s quite sad that the hospital directory [sic] boards can’t be bothered to recognise the efforts of the emergency department staffs when the prime minister himself already has.”
Doctors And Other Health Workers Who Qualify For Covid-19 Allowance
The special Covid-19 allowance applies to permanent and contract government doctors, as well as other MOH officers in the management and professional group.
Permanent and contract MOH paramedics who are eligible for the coronavirus allowance includes nurses, medical assistants, assistant environmental health officers or environmental health officers, X-ray technicians, medical laboratory technicians, dental therapists, dental technicians, therapists, public health assistants, community nurses, and health care assistants.
Permanent and contract MOH administrators who qualify for the special RM600 monthly Covid-19 allowance refers to technical and support schemes in health facilities, like administrative assistant (operations/ clerk), administrative assistant (finance), customer service, and vehicle drivers.
Public health care workers who qualify for the Covid-19 allowance are those who are directly involved in the “chain of management in handling and curbing the Covid-19 outbreak”, said the MOH FAQ.
The FAQ listed several scenarios where government health workers would be eligible for the coronavirus allowance, such as a medical assistant bringing the identity card of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient from the Covid-19 fever counter to the ETD for registration by an administrative assistant. The administrative assistant would also be eligible for the allowance if they register the patient and manage admission of patients-under-investigation to the isolation ward.
Ambulance drivers who transport Covid-19 patients, administrative assistants working the Covid-19 screening counter for registration, administrative assistants at labs that run Covid-19 tests, and health care assistants handling clinical samples of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients also qualify for the special RM600 monthly allowance.
Officers or health care workers who are part of any team or committee set up in hospitals to make, monitor, and coordinate action plans for the Covid-19 outbreak qualify for the special coronavirus allowance.
Staff undergoing further training who are instructed to return to work in MOH facilities during the coronavirus outbreak are also eligible for the Covid-19 allowance. They are to send claims for the allowance at their original department.
If the government sets up other Covid-19 screening centres, officers who do coronavirus detection and screening there are eligible for the special coronavirus allowance and must submit claims to their original department.
The scope of coronavirus-related work covered by the special Covid-19 allowance, which beneficiaries must claim for, includes making action plans to tackle the outbreak, detection and screening at medical facilities or Malaysia’s main entry points, contact tracing, infection control, home surveillance of people under quarantine, testing, and admission and treatment.
Health Care Workers Who Don’t Qualify For Covid-19 Allowance
An administrative assistant placed at the hospital’s admission fee counter for admission of regular patients does not qualify for the Covid-19 allowance.
Officers involved in the procurement of medical equipment during the coronavirus outbreak “are not directly involved in the chain of duties as frontliners exposed to the risk of Covid-19 infection”. Hence, they are not eligible for the special Covid-19 allowance, according to MOH. The pharmacy logistics department typically gets non-drug supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) for clinics and hospitals, while personnel at hospital stores include administrative assistants and health care assistants.
The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS), a pharmacists group, said last Saturday that pharmacists from both the public and private sectors should be considered frontline workers who qualify for the special Covid-19 allowance, pointing out that pharmacists dispense medicines to coronavirus patients and risk infection when interacting with Covid-19 patients, especially asymptomatic ones.
“Good pharmacists in the public and private sectors are medical staff in the frontlines who deserve to receive the special RM600 monthly allowance throughout the duration of this MCO (Movement Control Order),” MPS president Amrahi Buang said in a statement.
Part-time workers who perform coronavirus-related tasks do not qualify for the special Covid-19 allowance, although they can still claim for overtime pay.
A union representing private support services workers at government hospitals in peninsular Malaysia questioned why hospital cleaners and other support service staff were not considered frontliners, claiming also that their employers — which are private companies that have hospital support service concessions with the government — do not provide sufficient PPE to workers.
“Why are blue collar workers abandoned and white collar workers prioritised, even though both groups play their respective roles in fighting the Covid-19 outbreak and work in safeguarding the safety of the Malaysian public together?” said Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Swasta Perkhidmatan Sokongan di Hospital-Hospital Kerajaan Semenanjung Malaysia (KPSPSHKSM) in a statement Monday.
“KPSPSHKSM urges the government to give the RM600 allowance aid to government hospital cleaners and for the allowance to be directly paid to workers.”