KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 – A record 768 contract doctors left their jobs in the Ministry of Health (MOH) last year, as soaring Covid-19 caseloads due to the Delta variant overwhelmed hospital systems nationwide.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a written parliamentary reply to Sri Gading MP Shahruddin Md Salleh on March 14, said official data from 2017 until 2021 showed that 2,032 contract medical officers have quit, with 2021 reporting the highest number of resignations, accounting for over a third of the total figure.
The number of resignations among contract doctors multiplied over the five-year period, from 110 resignations in 2017 to 768 resignations in 2021. A total of 168 contract doctors quit in 2018, while 475 left their jobs in 2019, and 511 resigned in 2020.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, CodeBlue received numerous letters from health care workers, including junior contract doctors, who form the majority of frontline health workers battling the pandemic.
In July last year, during the peak of the Delta wave, an anonymous contract doctor at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) wrote about extreme fatigue and emotional detachment after clocking up to 12 hours a day, geared in personal protective equipment (PPE), with a daily ratio of one medical officer to 109 patients on average.
Others spoke about injustices of the government’s contract system and called for support of the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement, which launched a work-stop strike across the country at the end of July to protest against the federal contract scheme for junior doctors.
A former UD43 contract medical officer provided an account of his dreadful experiences during housemanship and shared his reasons for leaving public service.
The government’s contract system, which was first introduced in 2016, has only managed to absorb 1,118 medical officers, 1,019 dental officers, and 1,288 pharmacy officers to permanent roles, throughout its implementation up until 2021.
MOH has since announced the creation of at least 11,296 permanent positions for medical, dental, and pharmacy officers from 2022 until 2025.
Among permanent doctors, Khairy said a total of 3,313 medical officers quit between 2017 and 2021, with the annual figures declining from a high of 915 resignations in 2019 to 261 permanent medical officers leaving their jobs in 2021.
Khairy said the decision to quit was a right exercised by each individual medical officer.
Some of the main reasons for their resignations include serving in the private sector or statutory bodies, personal reasons, furthering their studies, health problems, migrating abroad, or opening their own clinics.