KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 – Bentong MP Young Syefura Othman told the Ministry of Health (MOH) today to take critical staff shortages in the public health service seriously.
The DAP lawmaker from Pahang pointed out that Bentong Hospital, a public district hospital in her constituency, also suffers from shortages of doctors and other health care workers.
“In my opinion, this is very critical and requires immediate solutions from the ministry,” Young Syefura said in her debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat.
She called for the formation of a commission to conduct a study on staff shortages in the public health care sector that are, “day by day, increasingly disturbing”.
“What is causing these doctors and health care workers to be increasingly demotivated in their service?” Young Syefura questioned.
“Why are they taking a long time to provide service – running into hours – when patients come to the emergency department and the like?
“The ministry must also focus on and take into account their mental health and emotions,” added Young Syefura, also known as Rara, referring to staff.
The government backbencher said she has received complaints from constituents about long waiting times at Bentong Hospital.
“I suggest that reform in the health service covers reducing waiting times for health care services and introducing flexible operating hours at public health clinics in densely populated areas.”
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s previous proposal to extend operating hours at public health clinics (klinik kesihatan) to reduce overcrowding at hospital emergency departments was widely panned by government doctors, who pointed out that this is impossible due to staff shortages.
A specialist doctor at a major hospital in Pahang wrote to CodeBlue last month to complain about a shortage of medical and house officers, besides pointing out that the situation is even worse in Bentong Hospital where medical officers (MOs) perform 12 to 14 on-calls a month. One MO in the district hospital reportedly takes care of two to three wards.
“The rate of MOs quitting is at least two per month in my hospital at the moment. Many are under psychiatry clinic consultation for stress-related issues and depression,” the specialist said.
CodeBlue’s nationwide survey last month among more than 1,600 government health care workers across professions revealed that 95 per cent believe the public health care system is currently in crisis, with a severely understaffed health service and health care professionals complaining of being overworked and underpaid.
One of the survey respondents, a medical officer at an MOH hospital in Pahang, complained that the government and MOH “does not care about patient care”, saying: “If they did, they wouldn’t have let burnt out MOs take care of their patients, or two to three MOs taking care of the whole hospital for two hours”.