The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) notes that much is being done to help various sectors in the country recover after a long pause in economic activity under the MCO and CMCO.
The stimulus packages and the recently launched National Economic Recovery Plan was well received and will indeed benefit many sectors. But one of the most important sectors greatly needing assistance is our country’s healthcare.
About 3,500 junior doctors from two cohorts may not get permanent positions in government healthcare facilities. A significant number of these medical officers on contract, are currently serving as frontliners in the fight against Covid-19.
In March this year, about 1,500 housemen received their contract for two years compulsory service in government on Grade UD41 without any extension. The UD41 contract medical officers do not enjoy the same benefits as their UD43 permanent counterparts. Contract UD41 MOs have a differential in annual salary compared to UD43/44 officers of about RM4000 per year.
But what is more worrying is the uncertainty contract medical officers are facing. Where will they go when they complete their contract’s two years of compulsory service? There are no permanent positions to serve as MOs in government health care facilities.
They can’t join local university’s Masters programmes for specialisation as they are not given full-pay study leave. If they opt for the parallel pathway for specialisation, they will need four years’ training after housemanship which again is impossible with the short-term contract. Private health care will also not be an option as there are limited opportunities.
The Malaysian Medical Association had sent a proposal to the government to extend the contract for medical officers to 10 years (UD43/44 for 2 years, UD 47/48 for 8 years) with a UD54 grade offered if they qualify as a specialist, with a five-year bond at the end to improve the access to specialist services for the rakyat.
Alternatively, a permanent medical post can be offered with EPF only to ensure that these junior doctors be given a fair chance to continue their service to the country. These suggestions were made in the proposal.
MMA also met with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba and Deputy Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali on the proposal in March this year and the Ministry has given the assurance to look into addressing the matter. MMA had also recently written to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on these issues, as well as the Senior Ministers.
The MMA is of the opinion that we need to lift the moratorium on new positions for the Ministry of Health. The issue of contract workers has now been extended to all levels of health care workers.
We need permanent positions. The growth projections of the population must be met with a concomitant increase of permanent positions to meet the healthcare needs for the country.
It is hoped that now that we are in the recovery phase of the Covid-19 situation, the government will look into addressing these issues. We have learned a painful lesson with the Covid-19 situation that health care must be a top priority to ensure that we will continue to be amongst the best health care systems in the world.
Dr N. Ganabaskaran is president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
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