Frozen Leave For Sarawak Poll Angers West Malaysian Doctors

A Nov 26 circular prohibits federal government workers in Sarawak who are “directly involved” in the state election from taking leave and interstate or international travel until Dec 18 without approval from the Chief Secretary to the Government.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — The Sarawak state government has frozen Sarawak-based federal civil servants’ leave until the state election on December 18, enraging non-Sarawakian doctors serving in the state.

A November 26 circular from Sarawak state secretary Amar Jaul Samion and Sarawak federal secretary Amir Omar, as sighted by CodeBlue, prohibits leave and interstate or international travel for federal government workers in Sarawak “directly involved” in the state election, effective immediately until December 18, without prior approval from the Chief Secretary to the Government.

“Just when you think it’s over, they say leave is frozen,” a doctor from the Klang Valley, who is currently working in Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), told CodeBlue yesterday.

Getting leave approval from the state health department takes days or weeks as it is.

“If you were to email KSN, how long would it take for your leave to be approved?” he questioned, referring to the Chief Secretary to the Government. “How about those whose leave have already been approved?”

He pointed out that some non-Sarawakian doctors have not gone home for one and a half years during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some, he said, have already booked their flights to return home before Christmas due to expensive flights at that time and limited leave approvals for the Christmas-New Year period.

“You say you need people, you need manpower, but you’re being very hostile towards those who are non-Sarawakian. Now when you need help for the election, you freeze our leave instead. This is causing a lot of rage.”

The SGH doctor complained about the “inconsistent” and frequently changing travel rules related to quarantine and swabbing for non-Sarawakian arrivals in the state, including for government doctors from outside Sarawak serving the state. A 14-day hotel quarantine costs about RM3,000.

“When I land here, I have to line up in the non-Sarawakian queue at the airport, despite being federal staff. Whenever we come back, we have to pay for swab and quarantine even though we have legitimate reasons to go back to West Malaysia. Now, we can’t go back unless we get approval. This has put off a lot of doctors.”

The SGH doctor claimed that at least 24 medical officers from the public hospital he’s working at have resigned over the past two months, partly due to frustration over the contract system too.

“The frustration of West Malaysians serving Sarawak has been increasing,” he said.

“In recent times, some doctors were given permanent posts for Sarawak, but they didn’t want to come. The state government, SDMC (State Disaster Management Committee), was one of the reasons.”

Daily Covid-19 cases in Sarawak have been declining over the past two months from a peak of nearly 2,500 new infections on September 30 to 137 fresh cases on November 27.

Daily hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients in the country’s largest state have also been decreasing. About 62 per cent of hospital beds in Sarawak are currently occupied, below the national average of 66 per cent.

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