Zaliha Expresses ‘Concern’ As Anger Swells Among Health Care Workers

In a general statement without setting a timeline for measures to resolve health care workers’ frustrations, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa reiterates the Health White Paper and periodic meetings with stakeholders, including workers on the field.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 – Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa issued a general statement today addressing health care workers’ concerns, amid rising frustrations with working conditions in the government health service.

She expressed appreciation for health care workers’ views about the current situation of the public health care system, after CodeBlue ran a poll among more than 1,600 government doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, and medical assistants – predominantly Ministry of Health (MOH) staff – that showed 95 per cent believe the public health care system is currently in crisis. Nearly all respondents at 98 per cent expressed anger at the present situation.

“MOH is concerned and is taking various comprehensive measures, both policy and technical,” Dr Zaliha, who is currently in Geneva for a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting, said in a series of tweets.

“For your information, MOH is in the process of drafting steps to resolve issues that have arisen by taking a targeted approach to reform the health care system.”

The health minister listed issues like health care workers’ welfare and physical and mental wellbeing, the human resource system, equal pay, and career progression as priorities for the MOH, adding that there is “no easy solution”.

Dr Zaliha said MOH would meet with the Finance Ministry to discuss the need for a bigger budget to fund infrastructure, digitalisation, and human resources.

“Periodic meetings with all stakeholders will also continue to be held to obtain feedback, particularly from staff on the field. This includes identifying short-term and long-term solutions that must be prioritised in the current situation.

“A large part of changing the health care system requires multi-agency involvement.”

She again reiterated efforts to draft the Health White Paper to reform the health care system.

The majority of respondents in CodeBlue’s survey held last month complained of being overworked, underpaid, burned out, and insecure with their career progression.

A whopping seven in 10 respondents, across both permanent and contract staff, are considering quitting their job in the government health service, while more than half expressed willingness to go on strike.

Dr Zaliha did not specify in her statement if the government would regulate the working hours of health care professionals in the MOH, amid severe staff shortages, or if they would get a pay bump. She also did not set a timeline for any measures that would be taken.

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