How Many Sarawakian Doctors Got Permanent Posts? MOH Asked

By Boo Su-Lyn | 14 April 2020

Two Sarawakian senior medical officers from Sibu Hospital who completed their compulsory government service last November have yet to get contract renewals.

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Sarawakian politicians have told the Ministry of Health (MOH) to disclose how many Sarawakian junior doctors received permanent positions to serve in their home state.

Dudong SUPP branch chairman Wong Ching Yong said he was informed that Sarawakians only comprised nine, or less than 10 per cent, out of 102 medical officers nationwide who recently received offers of permanent positions from the government to work in Sarawak.

“The MOH is not transparent regarding the number of Sarawakians getting permanent posts,” Wong told CodeBlue yesterday.

“The criteria of confirming permanent posts is very opaque. There are speculations that priority is given to those MO (medical officers) who did their housemanship locally and overseas graduates are marginalised.”

CodeBlue reported yesterday that the government has offered permanent positions to 100 out of some 1,500 contract medical officers from the May 2017 batch to serve in Sarawak this month, but at the UD41 civil service grade instead of the higher UD44.

According to a circular by MOH’s Human Resources Division dated April 9, over a quarter, or 28 of the 100 medical officers have declined the government’s offer of permanent posts, while 70 junior doctors accepted it, and two quit. Wong claimed that those who rejected the offer were non-Sarawakians.

Wong also pointed out that the government has yet to renew the contracts of three Sarawakian senior medical officers from Sibu Hospital, after they completed their two-year compulsory service last November and this month. The three government doctors — two women and a man — had graduated from the UK and Scotland respectively.

This was despite the DAP, part of the then-Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal administration, announcing last January that the government would extend the contracts of all Sarawakian medical officers.

“The doctors are wondering whether the change of government has made the assurance of the PH ministers dubious and not honoured by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government,” Wong said. The Gabungan Parti Sarawak state government is a partner of PN, but not officially part of the federal coalition that wrested power last month.

A letter written by the two women doctors from Sibu Hospital to Sarawak Chief Minister Johari Abang Openg dated March 23 said MOH told them that it had recommended to the Public Service Department (JPA) to renew their contracts, having sent letters to JPA last February 14 on the matter.

But JPA told one of the doctors who visited JPA’s office in Putrajaya on March 5 that “the letters from MOH could not be located and they refused to disclose any further details”, according to the doctors’ appeal to the Chief Minister, as sighted by CodeBlue.

Sibu Hospital wrote a support letter last November 21 to MOH’s Human Resources Division to request permanent positions for the two young doctors, who have passed their specialist papers in obstetrics and gynaecology, and paediatrics respectively, but need clinical experience to complete their specialist training.

“Their progress will be stunted if they’re not given the opportunity to continue their training and guidance from experienced medical specialists. This is actually not in line with efforts by the government and hospital to produce more specialists and to improve the quality of health care for patients,” said Sibu Hospital director Dr Ngian Hie Ung in the letter, as sighted by CodeBlue.

“This need is very critical in Sarawak, where most medical specialists come from peninsular Malaysia and do not serve long in Sarawak.”

Dr Ngan Hie Ung, Sibu Hospital director

Both Sibu Hospital doctors confirmed with CodeBlue yesterday that they were still awaiting a decision from JPA on the extension of their contracts, five months after they were let go.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii from the DAP asked MOH to clarify how many of the 102 offers of permanent positions for medical officers from all over Malaysia were made to Sarawakians.

“While there may be understandable reasoning behind those who rejected the offer, I urge the Ministry to prioritise Sarawakians when making the new offers, especially if they are to eventually be posted in Sarawak to address the urgent needs of doctors here in the state, especially in the rural areas,” he said in a statement to CodeBlue.

“There are still many Sarawakian doctors that are serving in the State that are yet to be offered a permanent posting.”

Dr Kelvin Yii, Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament

Dr Yii pointed out that although many West Malaysian doctors have been transferred to Sarawak over the years, in most cases, these arrangements were not permanent and they eventually transferred back to their home states after their two-year compulsory service with the government, or because they wanted to be closer to their family.

“So in that case, for them to fill up the gap right now may not really address the long-term need for doctors in Sarawak,” he said.

The DAP lawmaker also urged the government to give the new permanent junior doctors equitable remuneration and a similar grade as previous permanent medical officers, noting that UD41 medical officers earn about RM8,000 less annually than UD44 officers, despite doing the same job, with similar workloads and responsibilities.

“The core issue that the Ministry needs to address is actually the ‘intake’ criteria or criteria of selection when it comes to choosing who gets the permanent position and who gets continued on contract. The whole selection can be more transparent so that there is not only greater certainty in selection, but also to remove any ‘perception’ of favoritism, biasness or even discrimination in selection,” Dr Yii said.

“If the criteria is more transparent and ‘certain’, then the junior doctors can be better prepared and know for certain what they need to work for in order to achieve their target in obtaining a permanent posting. This may resolve a lot of the uneasiness and feeling of being under-appreciated that they are feeling now.”

Both Health Minister Dr Adham Baba and Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali did not respond to CodeBlue’s questions on when the UD41 permanent medical officers would be promoted to UD44, or how many Sarawakians received offers of permanent positions to serve in their home state.

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