KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Alor Setar MP Chan Ming Kai has urged the government to reduce the 10-year government bond for contract doctors on Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships.
The PKR lawmaker said such contract doctors are unable to continue specialist training during their 10-year service in government hospitals, but cannot quit either to join the private sector because of the decade-long bond from their JPA scholarship.
“Imagine, a doctor under a JPA scholarship must serve in a government hospital for at least 10 years, but they’re only on contract, so imagine a doctor graduate has completely lost confidence in the government because with this 10-year contract, they’re unable to continue their specialist course.
“Like what the health minister said, if you want to become a specialist, pay for it yourself,” Chan told Parliament during his debate on the King’s Speech yesterday.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba recently told the Dewan Rakyat that contract medical officers can finance their own specialist training and go abroad as they’re currently not eligible for the Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan scholarship for local postgraduate study at a public university.
“So I urge, if the Ministry doesn’t have funding to take in these new doctors, give them an early release from the 10-year bond from the JPA scholarship so that they’re not tied to it and, at the same time, face fewer opportunities to become specialists,” Chan told the Dewan Rakyat.
He complained about the contract system for government doctors that started late 2016, as nearly 1,500 medical officers, whose housemanship began in May 2017, simply received a two-year contract from this year to 2022 to fulfill their compulsory service.
“Doctors in the frontline, junior doctors, want to contribute to the government and to the people, but the problem is when they’re made contract doctors, so they have almost zero opportunity to take courses that can enable them to get promotions or to be specialist doctors,” he said. “This is what saddens our frontliner doctors.”
The Malaysian Medics International (MMI), a doctors’ group, said recently that even if doctors are able to pay for their own specialist training, they may not be able to complete it as their two-year compulsory government service falls short of the required training period. Postgraduate specialty training for doctors requires a minimum of four years, which begins after the completion of housemanship.
Chan also raised the plight of hospital cleaners who are employed by private companies to provide services to government hospitals.
The Opposition MP claimed that Edgenta UEMS — a government-linked company (GLC) contracted to provide hospital support services to 36 public hospitals in the northern region and which employs some 20,000 cleaners — transferred some workers to sub-contractors after working for two to three years.
These workers would then be considered fresh staff in the new company and paid minimum wage under their new contract, besides losing their accumulated leave, allowances, or bonuses, despite working seven to eight years in the same job.
“I ask the government to review and return these jobs as government staff on contract, even if they’re not put on pension. I’m very sad because the company isn’t a private company, but a GLC that’s owned by the government itself,” he said, pointing out that Edgenta UEMS’ parent company, UEM Edgenta, is under UEM Group that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad.
He also urged the Human Resources Ministry to review all contracts for government services, such as cleaning and building security, for any misuse in the switching of contracts for years’ long wage suppression.
Last June, a national union for hospital cleaners reportedly accused Edgenta UEMS of exploiting workers, claiming that the company failed to provide cleaners with sufficient protective gear during the Covid-19 outbreak. Five union members were charged earlier after picketing outside Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh, Perak, over complaints like the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). UEM Edgenta has denied their allegations.