KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 – About four in 10 house officers working at public health care facilities in Malaysia are subjected to workplace bullying, while 6 per cent complain of sexual harassment at work.
CodeBlue’s poll among 1,652 government health care workers nationwide last month found that in the subset of 187 house officers who took part in the survey, 77 people (41 per cent) report being bullied at work.
The 41 per cent prevalence of workplace bullying among trainee doctors is more than five times higher than the 7.4 per cent reported in the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) poll of over 110,000 respondents across 30 service schemes in the Ministry of Health (MOH).
HWCITF’s report on its survey omitted bullying prevalence specific to housemen and junior medical officers that only made up 11 per cent of its overall sample.
In CodeBlue’s survey, the 41 per cent workplace bullying prevalence among house officers is 16 percentage points higher than the 25 per cent rate in the overall sample that also included medical officers, specialists and subspecialists, as well as pharmacists, dentists, nurses, medical assistants, and allied health care workers.
The majority (83 per cent) of house officers (64 people) who reported workplace bullying in CodeBlue’s survey are working at MOH hospitals, while 17 per cent work at university hospitals (13 people).
Nearly half (48 per cent) of the house officers complaining of bullying were female (37 people) and 40 per cent were male (31 people). Another 12 per cent (9 people) preferred not to state their gender.
One in three (31 per cent) house officers (24 people) who have been reportedly bullied are working in Kuala Lumpur, followed by 16 per cent (12 people) in Sarawak, and 14 per cent (11 people) in Penang. Selangor makes up 9 per cent (7 people) of the complaint and Sabah 7 per cent (5 people). The percentages have been rounded off.
Other bullying complaints were from house officers in Perak (4 people), Perlis (3), Melaka (3), Pahang (2), Johor (2), Kedah (1), Kelantan (1), Negeri Sembilan (1), and Putrajaya (1).
A house officer at an MOH hospital in Penang said the chronic shortage of staff meant that most house officers carry out “multiple job scopes” at the same time. “For example, in the emergency department, there’s currently no staff nurse and not enough medical assistants.
“So housemen literally need to do from A to Z. Find a bed for patient, change bedsheet, clerk patient , take vital signs, take bloods, do ECG. If patient BO, who will change the pampers?”
Another house officer at an MOH hospital in Sarawak wrote: “MOs (medical officers) are basically dumping jobs on HOs.”
One house officer at an MOH hospital in Kuala Lumpur complained: “Long hours during tagging and have to come to work way earlier just so bosses won’t scream during morning rounds.”
Another house officer at an MOH hospital in Penang wrote about working more than 70 hours per week. “Are we not human too? Shortage of house officers is not an excuse to make HOs work overtime. 5am to 12am.”
A house officer at an MOH hospital in Johor wrote: “When your superior or so-called team member (i.e. sp, senior nurses, medical assistant, etc) do not treat you like a human being.
“They can have a break, chit chatting, go back home on time, we housemen running up and down, no time to sit and even to pee. Sometimes, they don’t even do their jobs or give plans properly, but housemen are the ones to blame. And there is no balance in housemen numbers in each department. Please help so no one will become another victim.”
One In Four Medical Officers Also Report Bullying
While the prevalence of bullying is highest among house officers, about one in four (25 per cent) medical officers (263 people) who took part in CodeBlue’s poll also reported having been bullied at work. Medical officers form the biggest group of respondents in the survey at 1,055 people, or 64 per cent of total respondents.
In the subset of 263 medical officers who claim to have been bullied at work, about 56 per cent (148 people) are on contract, while 44 per cent (115 people) are permanent staff.
Over 80 per cent (211 people) of the medical officers complaining of bullying work at an MOH hospital, while 15 per cent (40 people) work at a government health clinic or klinik kesihatan. About 3 per cent (8 people) work at a university hospital, while the remaining work at the National Institutes of Health, the National Population and Family Development Board, and district health office.
Nearly 52 per cent (136 people) of medical officers who reportedly face bullying at work are female, while 38 per cent (100 people) are male. About 10 per cent (27 people) preferred not to state their gender.
By state, the highest percentage of medical officers who reported bullying were in Selangor at 32 per cent (84 people), followed by Kuala Lumpur at 14 per cent (38 people), and Perak at 9 per cent (23 people). Others include Penang at 8 per cent (22 people), Negeri Sembilan at 7 per cent (18 people), and Sabah at 6 per cent (15 people).
Bullying complaints among medical officers also came from Pahang (14 people), Johor (12), Sarawak (11), Kedah (7), Putrajaya (6), Melaka (6), Kelantan (4), and Terengganu (3).
A medical officer working at an MOH hospital in Kuala Lumpur claimed that harassment came in the form of a threat.
“If you do not conform to the ridiculous and inhumane rules, you will be vindicated by not being allowed to get into Master’s/ given low SKT. Not honouring medical leave and being forced to work although a medical cert was produced.”
Another medical officer at an MOH hospital in Perak said: “Boss doesn’t allow us to take certain courses we wanted which require his signature and agreement.”
A medical officer at an MOH hospital in Kedah wrote: “People who are able to carry boss favour will get better chances in work progression/ leave approval despite the work being done by others. Bosses like to listen to one side, the side who makes the biggest sound.”
In Selangor, a medical officer working at an MOH hospital wrote: “Lack of manpower to the extent of medical officers doing house officers’ jobs apart from their own tasks, some specialists doing medical officer jobs. Number of on-calls is increased with not enough rest as we have to continuously work till the next day until 5pm (more than 30 hours). Lack of welfare for doctors who are really sick and require rest.”
Another medical officer at a klinik kesihatan in Selangor described problems as being “swept under the rug” and given “band-aid solutions.”
“There is real dysfunction from top to bottom that stunts and hampers personal growth. Superiors are hell bent on chasing KPIs and numbers to ‘look good on paper’ and while doing so sacrifice holistic and sustainable health care.”
A medical officer at an MOH hospital in Kuala Lumpur alleged favouritism by ethnic Malay superiors for medical officers and specialists of the same race who are supposedly not hardworking.
Another medical officer working at a klinik kesihatan in Kuala Lumpur added: “Simply rotating medical officers without proper reasoning.”
Respondents Alleging Sexual Harassment: HOs, MOs, Specialist, Nurse, Pharmacist
Both house officers and medical officers, across gender, also said they face sexual harassment at the workplace. However, none provided personal accounts for their claims.
CodeBlue’s poll found a total of 35 respondents (2 per cent) from the overall 1,652 sample who said they face sexual harassment.
Out of the 35 respondents, 11 are house officers (31 per cent) and 21 are medical officers (60 per cent). The claims were also made by a medical specialist, nurse, and pharmacy officer.
The prevalence of sexual harassment by health care worker group is 6 per cent for house officers (11 out of 187) and 2 per cent for medical officers (21 out of 1,055). In the overall sample, 2 per cent reported facing workplace sexual harassment.
Among the 11 house officers who reportedly face sexual harassment, 10 are working at MOH hospitals and one is working at a university hospital. Seven (64 per cent) are female and two (18 per cent) are male, while another two opted not to state their gender.
By state, five (45 per cent) of the 11 house officers complaining of sexual harassment work in Kuala Lumpur, with four (36 per cent) in Sabah, and one each (9 per cent) in Selangor and Sarawak.
Meanwhile, among the 21 medical officers who claim to be sexually harassed, 15 people (71 per cent) are contract staff, while six (28 per cent) are permanent. The claims are all from medical officers working at MOH hospitals.
Fourteen medical officers (66 per cent) are female and four (19 per cent) are male, while three preferred not to state their gender.
Four of the 21 medical officers who reportedly face sexual harassment work in Selangor, with another four in Penang. Claimants also include medical officers in Johor (3 people), Kuala Lumpur (3), Sabah (2), Negeri Sembilan (2), Pahang (2), and Kelantan (1).