KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — Hundreds of contract doctors launched a work-stop strike across the country today, defying threats of punishments to protest against the government’s contract scheme for junior doctors, as the country grapples with a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
The day-long strike, organised by an independent group of doctors, sees the mass walkout of contract health workers at several public hospitals nationwide, with the government reporting on Sunday at least 17,045 new cases in the previous 24 hours.
The medics are opposed to government plans to extend appointments on a contract basis, as concerns over the lack of career progression persist alongside challenges from mounting student debt and no job security, leaving many with young families under immense pressure.
Police were reportedly on standby at several hospitals identified by the group, including Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) and Shah Alam Hospital, in the Klang Valley. Plainclothes police were also spotted at Tuanku Fuziah Hospital in Perlis, and Bentong Hospital in Pahang.
Other hospitals identified as protest grounds for media coverage includefully designated Covid-19 hospitals, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Ampang Hospital and Selayang Hospital, as well as major hospitals in Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Perak, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu, Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.
At about 11.20am, about 50 doctors at Sungai Buloh Hospital dressed in black began walking out to the streets, holding #HartalDoktorKontrak placards. Similar sights were seen in Johor as doctors marched out of their hospitals to the streets.
At HKL, doctors managed to gather on the hospital’s rooftop, holding signs in their hands before the crowd was stopped by police officers.
At Seremban Hospital, doctors in black, donning face masks and shields, staged a walkout at the main entrance of the hospital after its main spokesperson was called to the director’s office, causing a 30-minute delay. Police soon ordered protestors to end the gathering and disperse.
In Melaka Hospital, staff gathered at the hospital’s car park, holding placards, with one reading, “We are your future specialists.” Doctors holding placards reading #HartalDoktorKontrak were also seen at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) Covid-19 Integrated Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) 2.0, according to The Vibes.
Representatives of the Hartal previously described the solutions offered by the government as stated by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as short-sighted, done merely to appease disgruntled contract doctors.
“An additional two-year contract is not the solution. Permanent posts must be given to the contract doctors, and the criteria must be well explained so that these contract doctors will have a clear direction in their careers,” they said, as reported by the New Straits Times.
On Friday, Muhyiddin in a statement said the contract-appointed medical officers, dental officers, and pharmacists will be offered an additional two-year contract after completing their mandatory working period.
He said the cabinet had also agreed to extend the appointments on a contract basis for a maximum of four years for dental and medical officers offered to pursue specialist studies during the first two years of the contract, to ensure the officers will complete studies of their respective specialities.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), which recently organised the #CodeBlack and #BlackFriday movement, has reiterated its stand that it does not condone any walkouts by health care professionals, especially when the nation is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.