I am saddened to see the current response by the Health Minister YB Dr Adham Baba and direction the Ministry of Health (MOH) is taking to ask contract medical officers to pay their own way for specialisation on parallel pathways abroad as they’re currently not eligible for a government scholarship.
This shows a lack of interest by the Ministry to properly address this issue and to offer a fair deal to these contract medical officers.
The Ministry went on to elaborate that there are 23,928 permanent medical officers who have not yet pursued specialist study, with MOH considering this amount suitable for the number of extra specialists it needs.
However, this opens up the core question on the selection criteria of permanent posts for these medical officers — whether those selected for permanent posts are considered better and more competent compared to those under contract.
This calls the need for the whole selection to be more transparent so that there is not only greater certainty in selection, but also to remove any “perception” of favouritism, bias, or even discrimination in selection.
If not, it will seen as a form of discrimination to those under contract as we are limiting their opportunities to further their training and obtain specialisation. Fact of the matter is, maybe not all the 23,928 MO under permanent contract has the intention to further their training and specialise.
We must ensure that for the growth of our health care system, every one who is eligible, competent and, very importantly, interested and committed to be trained as specialists to be given that opportunity, even those under contract.
It is merely a policy decision by Ministry of Health, JPA and also Ministry of Higher Education to allow such opportunities to be given to all our medical officers.
The call for them to pay for their own parallel pathways or specialisation programmes also will not solve the problem because, in many cases, their contract duration is not long enough to complete the full programme, get the needed training, as well as to be gazetted by the Director General (DG).
So unless they are allowed to be given an extended contract, even if they pay their own pathways, it is insufficient.
That is why I call upon MOH to dice a fairer deal for these young doctors, give them an opportunity to apply for specialisation, and offer them permanent posting upon completion to address the lack of specialists all around, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.
Dr Kelvin Yii is Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
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