KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) registered a record-high number of positions in 2021 with 274,987 positions, but over 21,000 positions (7.8 per cent) were vacant, according to the MOH’s latest annual report.
Official data show that a total of 21,463 jobs in the MOH were unfilled, as of December 31, 2021, including 6,134 management and professional roles, 8,421 paramedic and auxiliary positions, and 6,908 supporting group positions.
No details were provided on vacancies by profession, amid multiple anecdotes online of severe staffing shortages of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, among others, in the public health service.
The MOH’s Annual Report 2021 does not provide specific details on the vacant posts, but unfilled positions generally refer to positions that are vacant due to an employee’s resignation, retirement, termination, or death.
The total staffing for MOH’s main schemes of services in 2021 covered 32,713 medical officers, 4,180 dentists, 8,469 pharmacists, 66,663 nurses, and 14,496 medical assistants.
Most of the figures are higher compared to the previous year, except the number of medical assistants, which fell slightly from 14,551 medical assistants in 2020.
Out of the 32,713 permanent doctors in 2021, there were 6,258 medical specialists, 26,392 medical officers, and 63 permanent house officers. Despite the increased supply of medical officers, there is still a shortage to fulfil the country’s needs, the report noted, without providing figures on the gap between filled positions and the actual need in the health service.
CodeBlue has published numerous letters on staffing shortages in government hospitals across Malaysia since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Many health care workers have resigned, including specialists, medical and house officers, as well as nurses, due to being underpaid and overworked, all while dealing with chronic staffing and funding shortages.
CodeBlue’s nationwide survey last month among more than 1,600 government health care workers across professions – doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, and medical assistants – showed that 95 per cent believe the public health care system is currently in crisis, with the majority complaining of being overworked and underpaid.
Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a written parliament reply last year, stated that 2,032 contract doctors had quit between 2017 and 2021, with 2021 reporting the highest number of resignations, accounting for over a third of the total figure.
Some of the reasons cited for their resignations include to serve in the private sector or statutory bodies, personal reasons, to further their studies, health problems, migrating abroad, or opening their own clinics.
MOH’s annual report shows the appointment of 39,389 contract officers, as of December 31, 2021, including 26,303 medical officers, 5,587 dentists, and 6,663 pharmacists.
Other contract appointments made in 2021 involved 24 specialists, 144 physiotherapists, 136 occupational therapists, 47 dental technologists, and 485 dental surgery assistants.
MOH has since announced the creation of at least 11,296 permanent positions for medical, dental, and pharmacy officers from 2022 until 2025.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, on January 6, said 4,914 vacancies in permanent positions will be made available for medical officers, dental, and pharmacy officers in the public sector for 2023 – an additional 728 posts than 2022.
Covid-19 Human Resource Management
The government also made special appointments on contract basis, typically lasting between 3 to 12 months, to assist in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. A total of 14,993 Covid-19 contract appointments were made, as of December 31, 2021.
They include 176 science officers, 200 counsellors, 6,235 nurses, 5,297 medical assistants, 90 environmental health officers, 1,031 environmental health officer assistants, 1,462 medical lab technologists, 473 radiographers, and one public health assistant.
An additional 28 Covid-19 contract appointments were made through the government’s Pemerkasa economic rejuvenation programme, consisting of 24 medical specialists, one medical officer, one dentist, one public relations officer, and one engineer.
In 2021, MOH mobilised its existing personnel and contract appointments to assist human resource shortages in states affected by a sudden surge of Covid-19 cases. In total, 3,787 personnel were mobilised across states throughout the year. The mobilisation initiative also involved personnel from other agencies and ministries at the federal and states levels.