KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 – All complaints about the workplace bullying of trainee doctors must undergo formal investigations, as action cannot be taken solely based on claims on social media alone, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
The health minister said the Ministry of Health (MOH) has received multiple complaints that named specialists accused of bullying house officers, or junior doctors.
He explained that these complaints will be investigated by an independent task force and also by MOH’s integrity unit that probes disciplinary issues.
The terms of reference of the independent task force, which Khairy is not chairing, will be announced tomorrow.
Khairy said complaints investigated by MOH’s integrity unit typically take a few weeks, involving interviews with complainants and the accused.
“We will look at the results of both investigations before taking action,” Khairy told reporters in Putrajaya today after officiating MOH’s International Nurses’ Day 2022 event.
The Penang state government has sent Khairy reports on five doctors accused of engaging in workplace bullying in Penang Hospital, including a head of department, while the Negeri Sembilan state government has sent the state health department reports on two cases of the bullying of housemen in two hospitals in Negeri Sembilan.
When asked if the doctors named in the complaints forwarded by the Penang and Negeri Sembilan state governments would be temporarily transferred pending investigations, Khairy said this could not be done as MOH needs to first establish the grounds of the complaints.
“Some of the names sent to me are specialists. It’s not easy for us to transfer specialists. Currently, all of them are working as usual.”
The health minister stressed that although he took all allegations of bullying of house officers seriously, formal investigations must first take place before action can be taken.
“Although I consider all of these allegations seriously, as a minister, I cannot act on allegations on social media. They must go through proper and transparent investigations.”
Contract doctors’ group Hartal Doktor Kontrak has posted on its Twitter account anonymous complaints of workplace sexual harassment at Serdang Hospital in Selangor and Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Star, Kedah.
He also denied that MOH’s reminder to staff not to make any public statements, which has been posted on the ministry’s official website, was connected to the issue of bullying of housemen or the April 17 death of a 25-year-old house officer from Penang Hospital.
The death of the Penang Hospital houseman has triggered nationwide debate on the purported toxic culture of workplace bullying in public hospitals, as well as separate investigations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and by the Penang and Negeri Sembilan state governments.