Armada: HWCITF Report Fails To Show Extent Of Bullying Among Junior Doctors

Armada Bersatu wants a committee formed to review HWCITF’s findings, comprising junior and senior medical officers, specialists, consultants, and related medical associations.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 24 – Bersatu’s youth wing Armada has called for a further review of the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force’s (HWCITF) report on workplace bullying in the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Armada, which held a press conference yesterday on HWCITF’s findings, said that after reviewing HWCITF’s 162-page report published last Wednesday, it concluded that the independent task force completely failed to answer the fundamental question on the extent of bullying suffered by housemen or junior medical officers. 

“The task force’s report also does not provide a clear picture on the steps that need to be taken should someone face a bullying case, such as standards in terms of actions or punishments that should be imposed on the bully,” Armada national information chief Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim Badrul Munir said in a statement.

“This will cause bullying victims to be less confident in reporting any bullying case because they don’t know what will change and the perpetrator will just continue their duties as usual. 

“Therefore, Armada Bersatu wants the ministry to further review the report by HWCITF that was formed on May 13, 2022.”

He said that Armada has formed a working committee with its policy and law bureau under Siddiq Azani called Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman as an independent mass movement involving medical doctors and health officers that will be headed by Dr Aiman Alias to improve the workplace environment in the public health care sector.

The Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman working committee called for several measures pursuant to HWCITF’s report. 

First, it suggested forming a small committee to review HWCITF’s findings, comprising junior and senior medical officers, medical specialists, consultants, and related medical associations.

“Members of the committee must comprise individuals in service posted to health care facilities that are staffed with house officers and junior medical officers.”

The Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman action committee also recommended setting up a monitoring team in each department across MOH hospitals that will report directly to a special committee in MOH. 

This special committee should be empowered to receive direct reports from health service members who allege bullying and to forward these complaints to MOH that must be investigated within 48 hours.

“MOH’s investigating team must conduct fair and efficient investigations. This committee also needs to ensure that the integrity of complaints is always safeguarded without interference from any third party,” said Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim, who is also coordinator of the Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman working committee.

Thirdly, Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman recommended that this special committee in MOH monitor and report the names of individuals involved in bullying, even without a formal complaint, noting that most bullying cases are not reported because the victims are often juniors who are afraid of repercussions for reporting bullying.

Fourthly, Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed that MOH issue clear criteria of workplace bullying and to increase understanding of the issue and the rights of all doctors in facing bullying or harassment.

Armada-Gerakan Tunku Abdul Rahman further urged the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), which regulates the medical profession across the public and private sectors, to issue a clear warning to workplace bullies about punishments for bullying, including revoking their medical licence. 

“Armada Bersatu expresses the highest appreciation to HWCTIF members for their efforts in producing this report. However, Armada believes that this job is not over yet and there is still room for improvement to ensure that justice can be served for all parties,” said Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim.

He added that Armada sees this as a bipartisan issue, urging youth representatives across political parties to join hands with doctors in submitting a memorandum to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Penang health executive councillor Dr Norlela Ariffin, who previously highlighted bullying by medical practitioners in Penang Hospital, has similarly criticised the lack of depth in HWCITF’s report.

The state lawmaker from PKR told The Vibes that HWCITF’s report should have expanded on workplace issues faced specifically by housemen and junior doctors, such as long working hours.

Former Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan similarly said HWCITF failed to address the issue at hand, with the task force’s report superficially touching the issue of bullying and hazardous working conditions in MOH.

CodeBlue’s review found that HWCITF’s 162-page report failed to identify the prevalence of bullying among housemen and junior medical officers, as the report merely stated that only 7 per cent of total survey respondents reported experiencing workplace bullying. 

Medical practitioners in grades 41 and above, however, only comprised less than a quarter (23 per cent) of the 110,411 respondents in HWCITF’s online poll of MOH staff; merely about one in 10 respondents were housemen or junior medical officers in grades 41 to 44.

Despite receiving 14,000 pages of verbatim feedback of comments, suggestions, and views, HWCITF’s report did not highlight even one personal testimony of bullying or describe the most common workplace problems faced by trainee or junior doctors in public hospitals. 

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