Poll: 62% Of Permanent Health Care Workers Want To Quit

In the permanent staff subset (798 people) of CodeBlue’s survey among government health care workers, 62% are currently thinking of quitting, while 41% are ready to go on strike. A quarter of permanent staff who want to quit are specialists/ subspecialists.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 – Six in 10 permanent staffers in Malaysia’s government health service are currently thinking of resigning from their jobs, signalling deep frustrations with the public health care system.

CodeBlue’s poll among 1,652 government health care workers nationwide last month – predominantly among Ministry of Health (MOH) staff – suggests that not only are contract doctors actively planning to leave their positions in the public health care sector, but 62 per cent of permanent workers (492 people) as well. 

Out of the 492 health care workers who are thinking of quitting their permanent positions in the service, more than half (57 per cent) are medical officers (282 people), 18 per cent are medical specialists (90 people), and 10 per cent are pharmacy officers (50 people).

They also include 35 medical subspecialists (7 per cent), 10 assistant medical officers (2 per cent), eight nurses (1.6 per cent), six dental officers (1.2 per cent), three physiotherapists (0.6 per cent), two dental surgery assistants (0.4 per cent), and two pharmacist assistants (0.4 per cent), among others. 

Meanwhile, in the overall sample subset of 798 permanent staff, 41 per cent (327 people) said they would take part in a strike if one was organised, while one in three (36 per cent) expressed uncertainty about their participation (284 people). 

Put together, more than 600 permanent health care workers are either willing to or uncertain about walking out from work. 

Only 23 per cent (187 people) were against taking industrial action.

About 77 per cent of the 798 permanent staff (615 people) polled by CodeBlue feel that the government is not serious in addressing issues in the public health care system, while an equal percentage of 73 per cent (586 people) said they are overworked and underpaid, respectively. 

Another 71 per cent (568 people) said they are burned out, while 34 per cent (269 people) felt insecure about their career progression. About 22 per cent (174 people) said they face workplace bullying, while nine people (one per cent) said they face sexual harassment at work.

Some 22 per cent of respondents (178 people) from among permanent staff wrote verbatim responses on issues that they’re facing at work. They largely wrote about overcrowding and emergency room backlogs, chronic understaffing, poor leadership, unfair pair, heavy work burden, and equipment shortages.

A permanent specialist at an MOH hospital in Selangor described bed crisis, a situation in which the emergency demand exceeds the capacity of vacant beds, as a “daily occurrence” in her hospital. 

“I have around 50 to 60 patients in the emergency department, waiting for a bed in the ward, and they have been so for many days. These patients are essentially ward patients but since wards cannot accommodate them, they are left in the emergency department under emergency staff care. 

“With our limited staff, and on top of that, our new patients coming into the emergency department as we cannot close down the emergency department, we are definitely overwhelmed. Short-term solution is to open up new wards, but since staff number is an issue, this has been happening for a long time without any solution.”

A medical officer (MO) at an MOH hospital in Penang blames hospital management for being “dissociated” with the clinical situation in the hospital. Similarly, a dental officer at a klinik pergigian in Penang said: “Higher ups in KKM and state departments issue directives that overwork the staff without consideration of how the situation is at ground staff level.”

In Perak, a government doctor at an MOH hospital wrote: “I feel the government takes us all for granted.”

CodeBlue previously reported that critically ill patients, including ventilated cases, are stranded for up to six days in Ipoh general hospital’s (Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital) emergency room due to insufficient critical care beds and staff. 

Doctors from the MOH hospital said the situation this year has worsened from pre-pandemic days, when patients waited one and a half days at the most back then for beds in a ward.

Several permanent staff who took CodeBlue’s survey, including an MO at a university hospital in Kuala Lumpur, called for an increase in fees charged for outpatient and specialist care at MOH facilities. 

“RM1/ RM5 patient registration fee is no longer logical at this age. This sometimes leads to abuse of the health care system by the patient and lack of appreciation of the hard work done by health care staff,” the permanent MO at a university hospital in KL wrote.

Overall, permanent staff accounted for 48 per cent (798 people) of the total 1,652 respondents in CodeBlue’s poll. 

About 58 per cent (459 people) of permanent health care workers who took part in CodeBlue’s survey were medical officers, while 17 per cent (137 people) were medical specialists and 10 per cent (82 people) were pharmacy officers. 

Another six per cent (50 people) were medical subspecialists, while assistant medical officers and dental officers made up three per cent (23 people) and two per cent (13 people), respectively. 

Across the entire sample of 1,652 people in CodeBlue’s poll, including both permanent and contract staff, 73 per cent are currently thinking of quitting their job, 11 points higher than the 62 per cent in the permanent staff subset. 

About 52 per cent of total respondents expressed willingness to go on strike, exceeding the 41 per cent among permanent workers. 

Nearly all respondents agreed that the public health care system is currently in crisis and expressed anger at the situation.

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