PUTRAJAYA, May 17 – Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin explained today that he did not include government doctors in the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) because he sought an independent investigation free of prejudices.
The nine-member HWCITF – which was formed on May 13 amid allegations of bullying of trainee doctors following the death of a house officer from Penang Hospital last month – does not include any medical association or groups representing junior doctors.
“The issue of the task force not being inclusive does not arise; the task force will listen to all views and opinions,” Khairy told reporters at the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Hari Raya open house here today.
“I appointed external experts from outside the hospital field because I want them to issue a report that is independent of preconceived notions and prejudices.”
When asked if he could guarantee that housemen and medical officers would not face action for complaining to the HWCITF, Khairy said the task force will request for their views.
“I have informed MMA (Malaysian Medical Association) and Schomos that they are free to provide their views and opinions so that the task force can produce a balanced report that’s fair to all parties,” the health minister said.
Schomos is an MMA chapter that represents government doctors, including housemen, medical officers, and specialists.
HWCITF chairwoman Prof Siti Hamisah Tapsir said in a statement earlier today that the task force convened for the first time yesterday, where it received a briefing from MOH’s medical development division on management of the housemanship programme and an incident report from the Penang state health department on the death of the Penang Hospital house officer.
The HWCITF further discussed the task force’s action plan that will involve MOH health care staff at all levels, professional bodies, agencies, associations, and health-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to obtain information to improve the work culture of the public health sector.
“HWCITF takes into consideration the public’s views on the membership of this independent task force and we wish to explain that HWCITF’s working process in preparing its report and recommendations will take into account all aspects and views from various parties,” Siti Hamisah said.
A joint statement last Saturday by five groups representing junior doctors – MMA Schomos, Hartal Doktor Kontrak, the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (Imam), the Malaysian Medics International Doctors, and the MMA Junior Doctors Network – decried the lack of representation of junior doctors and medical associations on HWCITF.
“It is our concern that this may lead to a severe disconnect from everyday doctors manning our government hospitals and clinics,” they said.
“We have also submitted our suggestions accordingly to KKM (Ministry of Health) as requested, and will always stand ready to provide our grassroots feedback to the HWCITF, lest they be accused of making out-of-touch decisions from their ivory towers.”
HWCITF leader Siti Hamisah is a former Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation secretary-general. The other eight members include a former human resource chief executive at a bank, IMU Healthcare chief executive officer Dr Chong Su-Lin, a psychiatrist, and an organisational design expert, among others.