The Ministry of Health (MOH) must clarify immediately whether the 22,000 contract medical officers (MOs) who have been upgraded from UD41 to UD43 over the past week will receive any salary increments.
This is based on a news report that the current pay of a contract medical officer at UD41 is higher than the starting pay in the current new grade of UD43, fuelling fears that there is no increment, which is unfair to our young doctors.
They are currently drawing a basic pay of RM3,622, while the starting salary under the new UD43 grade is RM3,611.
The cabinet decision to promote these contract officers from the UD41 category to UD43 was done by the Pakatan Harapan government in November 2019, but the Perikatan Nasional government has been slow in implementing it, with the decision only coming into effect recently.
However, the concern that they will not receive any raise even with the promotion must be clarified and addressed. If this is true, then it is a clear injustice to our young medical officers, and does not show the nation’s appreciation for their efforts in combating Covid-19.
We should be constantly trying to protect our young medical professionals and retain them in the public service, where more than 70% of the population still seek medical treatment. If not, we risk losing more of them to the private sector or even contributing to the brain drain.
On top of this promotion in grade, I believe that the government must outline a long-term plan to address the contract issue. I urge for a proper update on the government’s plan to extend the duration of the contract to allow them to apply for and finish their specialisation programmes, especially through “parallel pathways”.
Do they plan to extend the contracts moving forward, and what is the timeline for this to be implemented?
The government should allow these contract workers similar access to perks enjoyed by the permanent MOs as their responsibilities, workloads and risks are the same.
It is only a policy decision that can be made on the ministry level, which includes granting access for them to obtain special leave benefits such as hazard leave, study leave, etc.
On top of that, they should allow them to apply for the Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan programme to further their post-graduate degrees in local universities to address the problem of the lack of specialists in our country.
We can appreciate our medical frontliners by investing in them, giving them better tenure security and a chance for them to specialise in their preferred Master’s programme.
This is, of course, in line with the efforts by the government to produce more specialists, thus improving the quality of health care for patients.
While I acknowledge that this is a complicated issue, it is sad to see how young doctors are treated like disposables, even though they have given so much during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
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