KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 – Segamat MP R. Yuneswaran has called for a bipartisan response to resolve staff shortages in the public health service, amid growing threats of a strike by government health care workers.
The PKR lawmaker said the formation of a parliamentary special select committee on public health should be expedited.
“The parliamentary committee can propose ideas, views, and comments by Members of Parliament selected to join the committee,” Yuneswaran said in a statement yesterday.
“Although it may not have the mandate to execute, at least the parliamentary special select committee can think of temporary ‘medication’ to slightly reduce congestion in hospitals caused by staff shortages.”
Doctors’ group Reformasi Kesihatan Malaysia has listed 12 demands to the government to avert a potential strike in the public health service, including a review of salaries for all health care personnel, an increase in on-call allowances for doctors, as well as transparent selection criteria for permanent posts.
Yuneswaran called for collaboration between the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Ministry of Finance (MOF), and the Public Service Department (JPA) to resolve the problem of insufficient manpower in the public health service.
“Positions must be created first, which can only be done if sufficient funding is allocated to recruit health care workers, especially to appoint contract doctors to permanent positions,” the government backbencher said.
“As a legislator, I don’t want to see complications in the public health service to be politicised by certain quarters that only know how to criticise, scold, and blame the minister or the Health director-general.”
In a reply in Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the government cannot hire additional doctors without sufficient positions or funding provided by JPA and MOF.
The minister also urged aggrieved health care workers not to go on strike, telling them to be more “mature” instead and to seek a meeting with her by contacting her officers.
MPs from both sides of the divide have been urging the government to address dire staff shortages in the public health service that have worsened overcrowding in emergency departments, as health care professionals complain of being overworked, underpaid, and burned out.
Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, who is in charge of the health portfolio in Perikatan Nasional (PN), told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that the government needs to review staffing needs for public hospitals and clinics, noting a rising trend of resignations in the public health care sector.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii (DAP), in his debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address yesterday, told the government to stop building new hospitals or clinics amid staff shortages, saying that the focus for this year and the near future should instead be on improving existing facilities.
Bukit Gasing state assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran from the DAP, together with DAP Youth chief for Petaling Jaya Kusaaliny Mahendran (also known as Kusha), released a podcast yesterday on the medical brain drain.
“If you lose top graduates and you lose the best students we have to other countries, the quality of government hospitals is going to drop, the quality of health care services in Malaysia is going to drop,” Kusha said.