I am one of the many contract medical officers who have chosen to leave this country. I did so with a heavy heart, for I love my country and I never wanted to turn my back on it, especially in this time of crisis.
But I have made my decision, and I can only write about this here in hopes that things will get better for my colleagues and juniors who have chosen to remain behind.
Many of the frontline doctors are contract staff. In fact, most of us are fresh out of housemanship. It is easier to make use of us, who do not have any training in a discipline nor belong to any department, than to take senior medical officers from other departments as this may disrupt their work.
This is all something we understand and accept – but the looming threat of our contracts expiring is something we cannot run away from. Many of my peers have taken parallel pathway exams and passed Part 1, but our interests/training were not taken into account due to the need for manpower for Covid-19 work. We do not complain because we know the country is in need of us.
The lack of transparency about the criteria to permanent posts fills us with doubts. The unfulfilled promises to promote us to UD43 grade leaves us hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. The salary discrepancy and the fact that we cannot claim hazard leave or certain allowances such as Elaun Gangguan Perpindahan (and many of us have moved from other states, trying to find new housing, and shipping our cars for the second time in three months) leaves us wondering why we cannot be treated the same as our permanent colleagues.
Every day as we don and doff our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), our time is running out. Many of us have spent eight months and counting on the frontlines.
Even when we get our next placement, when we request to stay in our initial hospital or to be placed in a tertiary centre where the discipline we are interested in is available, those who have been training in other departments before are prioritised.
Those who have been in Covid-19 work for the past year are not “valuable” as they have not been part of any established departments prior to this.
You cannot be a Covid medical officer forever, for once Covid-19 is over, what are you going to do? What skills will you have? Will you have the time to learn them?
This would not matter if our time is not running out. Training opportunities will come again – if we only have the luxury of time. Many of us are trying to prove ourselves more valuable to Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) with research papers and sitting for professional exams in hopes of being offered a permanent post, but those are mere hopes.
There is no guarantee we will not be let go after two years, or stay as a UD41 medical officer for the next 10 years.
This is why I have chosen to leave KKM. For no matter how hard I work, the future is uncertain, and I would rather go somewhere where my hard work will be valued.
I can only hope the frontliners who have served on Covid-19 teams for the past year can be rewarded by being allowed to join the departments they are interested in once their stint is over.
I can only hope that KKM will be transparent in their criteria for selection of permanent positions so we don’t have to sit around hoping whatever we do will score imaginary “points” to secure our futures.
I can only hope that one day, before our contract is up, we can be treated just like the other doctors who entered the workforce before 2016.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.