KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 – Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin from Bersatu has criticised the government’s lack of political will in addressing the crisis in Malaysia’s public health care system.
In a TikTok video, the Penang state representative cited CodeBlue’s nationwide survey last month among 1,652 government health care professionals and workers, predominantly Ministry of Health (MOH) staff, that showed 95 per cent believe that the public health care system is in crisis and that 98 per cent are angry at their work situation.
CodeBlue’s poll – which included doctors across seniority, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, medical assistants, and other allied health care workers coming from every state and federal territory – also revealed that a whopping 73 per cent are thinking of quitting their jobs, while 52 per cent are willing to go on strike.
Dr Afif, who is also Bersatu Shah Alam deputy division chief, highlighted issues in the public health care system like staff shortages, staff being overworked and underpaid, as well as shortages in equipment in MOH health care facilities throughout the country.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has proven the dire need for health reform in the country. Yet, the PH (Pakatan Harapan)-BN (Barisan Nasional) government today, especially the health minister, still has yet to show serious efforts in resolving this issue,” Dr Afif said in his TikTok video.
He pointed out that Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa instead went to Oxford University recently to talk to Malaysian doctors working in the United Kingdom about the state and future of Malaysia’s health care system – a topic which she has yet to address with Malaysians living in Malaysia.
Dr Zaliha’s public communications after the publication of CodeBlue’s survey results did not acknowledge if she agreed with health care workers’ sentiments that the public health care system is in crisis.
Nor did the health minister address sentiments of deep anger and frustration among health care workers across professions, who feel seriously overworked and underpaid, that are driving most to consider leaving the government health service.
Last night, Dr Zaliha cancelled an interview with Melisa Idris, host of Astro Awani’s “Consider This”, an hour before the show, that was meant to talk about “policy prescriptions for a public health care system in crisis”. The health minister cited a “family emergency” for her last-minute cancellation.
In verbatim quotes, many respondents in CodeBlue’s survey complained about unrealistic key performance indicators (KPIs), such as a pharmacist working in an MOH hospital in Kuala Lumpur who criticised the value-added service (VAS) in pharmacy that burdens staff, due to the lack of additional staff to accompany the extra workload.
A medical officer working in an MOH hospital in Penang complained of working for more than 36 hours without sleep, forcing them to engage in the dangerous behaviour of micro-sleeping while driving home.
In an interview with CodeBlue, a specialist doctor working at a public hospital in Sabah pointed out that medical officers in Malaysia are paid just RM220 for a 24-hour on-call on a weekend, equivalent to only RM9 per hour, 118 per cent lower than the SG$480 rate in Singapore – without currency conversion. With currency conversion, Singapore’s on-call rate is 609 per cent higher than Malaysia.
Another CodeBlue survey respondent, a medical officer working in a government hospital in Selangor, claimed that some heads of department refuse to even approve certain passive on-call claims.