KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — The government has offered 100 out of some 1,500 contract medical officers permanent positions, but at the UD41 civil service grade instead of the higher UD44.
According to a circular by the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Human Resources Division dated April 9, slightly over a quarter, or 28 of the 100 medical officers have declined the government’s offer of permanent posts, while 70 accepted it, and two quit. These junior doctors were from the third cohort, whose housemanship started on May 15, 2017.
The new permanent medical officers will be posted to Sarawak effective April 15 on the basis of importance of service.
“For your information, SPA (Public Service Commission) has approved the backdating of the permanent appointments to 15 May 2017. In line with the decision on these permanent appointments, officers categorised as UD41 grade permanent medical officers start from that date,” said the circular, as sighted by CodeBlue.
UD41 medical officers earn about RM8,000 annually less than UD44 officers. Before the-then Barisan Nasional administration introduced the contract system for government medical professionals in 2016, permanent junior doctors were promoted to UD44 after doing their housemanship at the UD41 grade.
Last month, MOH offered two-year contracts to housemen from the May 2017 batch to complete their compulsory service from May 15, 2020 to May 14, 2022 as contract medical officers on the UD41 grade. MOH’s offer letter stated that this constituted doctors’ final contract with the government.
Government doctors have expressed outrage at contract medical officers being retained on the same grade as their junior housemen, saying that contract medical officers should earn as much as their UD44 permanent seniors because they perform the same work. Contract medical officers also can’t join local universities’ Masters’ programmes to specialise because they’re not given full-pay study leave.
A contract medical officer from peninsular Malaysia said he rejected the offer of a permanent position because he had no plans for further study or to remain with the government in the future.
The junior doctor, who does Covid-19 work in a government hospital like screening, examining, and treating suspected coronavirus patients, plans instead to finish his two-year contract in the service and perhaps move on to private practice.
“After working as HO (house officer) and now MO (medical officer) with the government, you kind of grow tired and weary of what’s going on around you.
“Let’s just say it’s unfair that you are expected to shoulder the same burden and job scope as your seniors and yet, you are kept at grade 41,” the doctor told CodeBlue Friday on condition of anonymity.
Another junior doctor from peninsular Malaysia said he accepted the government’s offer of a permanent post, despite the UD41 grade, for job security and the ability to undergo specialist training.
“We were promised that our grade will increase later on,” the medical officer told CodeBlue on condition of anonymity, adding however that MOH did not specify when this would happen.
He also said some medical officers from the February 2017 and December 2016 batches had received permanent position offers on the UD41 grade.
“It’s great that we get permanent, but our concern is we get Sarawak, not peninsula,” said the government doctor.
“With the MCO (Movement Control Order) and Covid-19 thing, travelling will be a big problem. They didn’t tell us why we were sent to Sarawak.”
The doctor said he received an email from MOH on April 4 about his permanent appointment offer and posting to Sarawak, adding that medical officers had the option to postpone their transfers beyond this Wednesday.
According to the April 9 MOH circular that was sent to the state health directors in Penang, Kedah, Perlis, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sarawak, and Sabah, officers can claim for allowances for moving to Sarawak.
MOH previously did not renew the contracts of two medical officers in Sarawak last November after they completed their two-year compulsory service with the government. But they later received contract extensions after the DAP intervened last January during the Pakatan Harapan administration.
Terminations also loom over government pharmacists. The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society said yesterday that an estimated 3,500 contract pharmacists would leave MOH, university hospitals, and the Malaysian Armed Forces between April and December this year if their contracts were not extended, with some leaving as early as April 16.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told a press conference yesterday that the government currently had sufficient pharmacists, but said pharmacists whose contracts have ended could still work with MOH on a volunteer basis.