Strike Proceeds Unless All 23,000 Contract Doctors Get Permanent Posts: Group

Organisers say their strike from July 26 will go on until the government meets their two demands: permanent posts for all contract doctors and clear criteria for permanent positions.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — An anonymous group today demanded permanent positions for all 23,077 government contract doctors ahead of their planned strike starting July 26 that it said would persist until their demands are met.

The group organising the strike — at a time when hospitals are struggling to deal with the worsening Covid-19 epidemic — earlier submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Health (MOH) demanding only two things: permanent jobs for all medical officers currently on contract and clear details on the criteria for permanent positions in the service.

The memorandum was presented amid mounting public support for the #HartalDoktorKontrak movement that was triggered by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba’s statement last week that justified maintaining the contract system for government health care professionals.

Failure to meet the group’s demands within three weeks will result in a work stoppage from July 26, said the group.

“For now the government will have 26 days to come forward and bring all methods of solution to the table. We will give them such a time frame to ensure that a proper response is in place.

“With that brought forward, we will perform a walkout from work. This will be carried out at all hospitals around the country for one day. And if the memorandum demands are not met, we will continue doing so until the government comes forward to do so,” the group said in a statement that was not signed by any particular individual.

Besides unclear career progression with the contract employment scheme for government doctors, the group also highlighted discrimination against contract doctors in terms of wages and benefits like hazard leave and housing loan schemes. 

As of May 31, a total of 35,216 health care professionals are on contract, comprising 23,077 medical officers, 5,000 dentists, and 7,139 pharmacists. An additional 12,153 undergraduates are enrolled in a training programme under MOH’s contract recruitment scheme. Junior doctors form the bulk of the country’s Covid-19 health workforce.

Dr Adham said that between December 2016 and May 31 this year, a total of 789, or 3.4 per cent, of 23,077 medical officers appointed on a contract basis had been given permanent appointments.

“Medical officers are employed in cohorts or batches, and each year there will be roughly five to six cohorts. If we assume each cohort has 1,000 officers employed, the number 789 is only roughly 13 per cent for the year of 2019. The number is drastically low,” said the group in response.

Dr Adham told the press earlier today that the Cabinet would meet soon, though he did not specify a date, to discuss the demands by contract doctors.

Under the contract system, medical officers can only work in the public sector for five years (comprising up to three years of housemanship and two years’ compulsory service), after which they will be pushed into the private sector or be forced to continue specialist training overseas.

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