‘Underpaid’ Physiotherapists In MOH Demand Better Career Pathways

A petition says a physiotherapist who has been in government service for 10 years can only apply for a U32 promotion due to limited U41 posts; the minimum monthly salary for a U29 physiotherapist is RM1,797, just 20% more than the RM1,500 minimum wage.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 – More than 4,600 people have signed an online petition calling for better career advancement opportunities for physiotherapists in the public health care sector.

Physiotherapy staff at the Ministry of Health (MOH) are demanding higher-level job positions for physiotherapists with bachelor’s degrees and higher entry-level qualifications, a level-up from the current diploma requirement to a bachelor’s degree, in a petition on Change.org

The petition claims that a physiotherapist who has been in government service for 10 years cannot automatically qualify for a U41 grade promotion, as there are only five to ten U41 grade job positions made available each year. 

Instead, physiotherapists in public service for a decade can only apply for promotions to U32, which cannot even be confirmed due to limited job positions. U29 and U32 positions are for diploma holders, whereas U41 requires a degree.

“If the physiotherapist intends to get the [U41] position, the person will have to apply for an interview and compete with external applicants. This is really an unfair job career path,” said Syahira, a physiotherapist at a government hospital. 

Citing Public Service Commission (SPA) data, she tweeted that only 17 U41 physiotherapy rehabilitation officers were permanently appointed between 2018 and 2020 (2018: 10, 2019: 6, 2020: 1).

Syahira said there are 353 physiotherapists in MOH who are degree holders, of which 156 are still serving under a diploma pay grade in government settings. “That is a 44 per cent gap though, 44 per cent bachelor degree graduates free labour, not given the U41 grade.”

The starting salary for U41 physiotherapy rehabilitation officers is RM2,429, with a maximum salary of RM9,656, according to the SPA. The annual salary increase is at RM225.

To compare, the minimum salary for a U29 physiotherapist is RM1,797. The highest salary for the pay grade is capped at RM5,753, with an annual salary increase of RM145. 

The U32 grade offers a minimum salary of RM2,331 and a maximum salary of RM6,394, with annual salary increases of RM155, based on salary schedules on the government’s open source database.

The petition calls for the government to offer a pay grade “commensurate” with the academic qualifications of a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are the latest group to join government doctors and specialists who say they are underpaid.

A signatory of the petition named Ken Ang Lee said: “I fully agree that the present system of promotion for the physiotherapist is unfair. It should indeed go by qualifications rather than [by] posts which again are so limited. Please rectify this unfair system soonest possible.”

Another signatory, Muhamad Faiz, commented: “I know several people pursuing a Master’s degree in physiotherapy while working as U29 physio. I really do hope they have an advantage in their career or we (Malaysians) will lose amazing people.”

Wei Tsen Lee, also a signatory, said: “The career development as a physiotherapist is very limited, whereas physiotherapy service is a very important curative field in MOH. The government needs to provide the space so that skilled individuals will remain in the service and avoid ‘brain drain’ in the public service.”

The petition is addressed to the MOH, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni, and Bandar Tun Razak MP Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

As of Tuesday, 4,652 people have signed the petition.

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