In recent days, we have read about a lot of stories in regards to bullying and harassment amongst doctors in public service. Many people are now stepping forward to reveal their experiences in the past.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has also received a lot of criticism in the past few days for not taking action on these so-called “bullies” who are in the system.
In fact, certain groups had also misconstrued information from the media, further widening the gap between senior and junior doctors.
Let’s take a look at the main issue here, namely workplace bullying. Has it been resolved? No.
Firstly, not all medical officers or specialists who admonish their colleagues are bullying. There are strict standards to adhere to in medicine, especially when the wellbeing of patients are on the line.
Patients deserve the best care we can offer them, and when doctors (senior or junior) make mistakes that compromise patient care, some form of correction, scolding, or admonishment must be done. However, there is a fine line between admonishing and bullying, which needs to be read carefully.
The MMA press statement on May 10, 2022 stated, “Reforms needed in training of house officers”. We thank our friends in the media for sharing our statement.
However, certain outlets were not able to portray the message correctly, leading to questions about the use of harsh words during admonishment. Poor reporting too portrayed the president as dismissive of the incidents of bullying, and even as saying that there are too many doctors in the country.
While the media has reported many issues that surround the medical fraternity, and we thank them for that, we call for responsible journalism that does not seek to sensationalise the issue.
Readers, too, should be more careful interpreting information. It was shocking to know that some politicians tried to gain mileage on this news as well.
The MMA has over numerous occasions:
- Spoken out about the issue of bullying in the medical fraternity,
- Never agreed that the number of doctors in the country was sufficient.
In fact, we have called for a town hall meeting with the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2022 to address these issues.
We would like to highlight that there are avenues for victims of bullying to report their experiences in the current health care system. However, there have been many who are afraid to do so.
One of the reasons is that there are perpetrators causing fear amongst house officers. This includes the fear of extension, fear of being insulted, and many more.
We need to create a system where victims can provide their complaints without fear of repercussions. The MOH can, should, and must provide this reassurance to our junior doctors to prevent cases being swept under the carpet.
A fair trial must be provided to the accused. Once found guilty, however, stern action must be taken regardless of their position.
On the other hand, there should not be protection given to safeguard the name of the ministry, at the expense of a doctor’s mental health. As mentioned by the MMA president, MMA does not condone any form of bullying.
SCHOMOS has personally dealt with many of these cases, and rest assured, we will not let these perpetrators go. This is an assurance from SCHOMOS, if cases are reported to the MMA through our HelpDoc hotline.
Taking a step further, the MMA, together with other medical associations, has also provided a list of issues and suggestions to the MOH to prevent any further bullying among doctors in the country.
We hope that the task force mentioned by the health minister will be set up promptly, and workplace bullying is stopped. In the meantime, training should not be compromised especially at the expense of patients.
Moving forward, doctors should unite and not divide into groups of seniors and juniors. We need to look past the hierarchy that exists in the system and work together, preserving the highest quality of health care for our patients.
MMA Schomos is the Malaysian Medical Association – Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists that represents government doctors.
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