Since the Covid-19 pandemic started in January 2020, our health care workers have been hard at work serving the people and carrying out their duty to the nation.
Heart-warming stories of their sacrifices and contributions have adorned the pages of newspapers and social media. There is no doubt that they are the heroes Malaysia has the privilege to call her own.
It is therefore truly disappointing when health care workers have to resort to writing to Members of Parliament, informing us of the chronic and serious issues affecting them.
In a letter from the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) addressed to 219 other Members of Parliament and myself, several important issues were raised regarding manpower at the frontlines, as well as the welfare of health care workers. I am dismayed at this surprising news, as these are basic components in our health care workers’ welfare that should have been addressed much earlier.
It is very important to look after our health care workers, as they play a very important role during this pandemic. As such, I call the government to:
1. Ensure There Is Adequate Manpower
Many health care workers have spoken to the media regarding physical and mental exhaustion. Working in an environment with a high risk of infection, it is inevitable that health care workers may contract the disease, and sometimes have to undergo quarantine.
These enforced periods of absence could lead to increased workloads for their colleagues on duty, and consequently further raising the risk of burnouts.
It is imperative for the Ministry of Health to communicate effectively with the Public Service Department to ensure adequate manpower at the frontlines.
In his Budget Speech 2021, the Finance Minister promised 35,000 job opportunities in the public sector, with priority to fill up positions such as nurses, medical attendants, social welfare officers and temporary teachers. The government should explain how many of these 35,000 positions have been filled.
2. Ensure The Health of Every Health Care Worker Is Not Compromised
For our health care workers to be able to concentrate on their duties, their welfare must be taken care of. We have to ensure that they have adequate Personal Protective Equipment at the frontlines.
It is a concern when the promotion in service grade of contract doctors from UD41 to UD43, which had been promised to them by the Minister of Health in 2020, has not been implemented.
This is a source of frustration for many contract doctors (the Malaysian Medical Association estimates the number to be around 10,000), as it denies them fair remuneration, despite them taking on the same amount of workload and responsibility of their UD43 colleagues.
3. Ensure Child Care Services For Health Care Workers Unable To Work From Home
Our health care workers are unable to work from home, and they spend a significant amount of the day at the frontlines. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development should establish child care centres capable of catering for the children of health care workers, keeping in mind their sometimes-erratic working hours.
Our health care workers are our last line of defence against the Covid-19 pandemic and future health care crises to come. We should and we must resolve these issues to reverse the silent brain drain from our nation.
I call on each and every one of my colleagues, including those across the aisle, to join our health care workers in holding the government accountable.
I stand in solidarity with our government health care workers.
Teo Nie Ching is Member of Parliament for Kulai.
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