‘Code Black’ Protest Launched Ahead Of Contract Doctors’ Strike

Code black is a hospital code that refers to a hospital emergency denoting a threat to personnel, or a suspicious or bomb threat.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — A doctors’ group has initiated “Code Black” — an online protest — ahead of a planned strike by several contract doctors amid the lack of permanent positions in the government.

The online movement, also known as “Black Monday”, by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers, and Specialists (SCHOMOS) will run from July 1 until July 12. SCHOMOS has distanced itself from the proposed July 26 strike by a separate independent group of doctors.

SCHOMOS is demanding urgent action from the federal government on the job security and welfare of contract doctors. The demands of the movement include:

  • a clear postgraduate pathway to specialisation for contract doctors
  • detailed and transparent criteria for permanent posts
  • equal and fair treatment/benefits for contract and permanent staff
  • job security for all doctors and allied health care workers

Supporters are called to change their personal profile pictures or institution logo to black or monochrome, over the 12 day-protest which will culminate in a “Black Monday” on July 12, where those in support of the movement will don black outfits to work and post pictures online with hashtags like #saveMYcontractHCW, #CodeBlackMY and #BlackMondayMY .

Code black is a hospital code that refers to a hospital emergency denoting a threat to personnel, or a suspicious or bomb threat.

MMA SCHOMOS, in its FAQ, said the contract system for doctors implemented by the government in December 2016 lacks clarity and a proper plan for career progression, pushing many young doctors abroad in hopes of better working conditions, job security, and remuneration.

When compared with other contract systems implemented in countries such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, it said Malaysia’s contract system has no transparent criteria with regards to selection for a permanent post or contract renewal and has no proper plan for career progression due to short contract periods vis-a-vis long training specialisation periods.

“With a five-year limit on a doctor’s lifespan in the public health care system, batch after batch of junior medical officers will be pushed out into the private sector. Accompanied by the natural trend of senior consultants reaching retirement age, we will see a dwindling supply of experienced physicians and surgeons available to provide specialist care. 

“Faced with a ceiling on their professional development, junior doctors will also be pushed overseas to further their training. This will exacerbate the brain drain of our nation’s brightest talents.

“The effects of the current contract hire system might take years to manifest. Nevertheless, the time to reverse it is now. The training period prior to becoming a fully-fledged medical specialist takes on average five to seven years. It will be too late if we wait any longer,” SCHOMOS said.

MMA has engaged various government agencies over the past five years to resolve the issues. The group said it has thus far been successful in pressuring the government to promote contract medical offers to the paygrade of UD43, similar to their counterparts in permanent service.

The main issues surrounding the lack of specialisation pathways and adequate contract lengths, however, remain unresolved.

Calls by a group of contract medical doctors for a planned strike by the end of July were initiated last week, with #HartalKontrakDoktor gaining traction on social media over the weekend.

MMA clarified that the “hartal” was initiated by a group of independent contract doctors who are not affiliated with the association.

“While we acknowledge and agree that the system needs to change, MMA does not condone a strike, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. As doctors, our first and foremost guiding principle is still to do no harm. We will continue to exhaust all possible avenues in our endeavour to resolve these issues,” MMA said.

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