It was a bitter disappointment, looking at the outcome of the town hall meeting with health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa on February 22, 2023.
Firstly, as a minister in charge with many advisors, one would think that she would come prepared, rather than saying “I’m new” and “Not within my knowledge”.
Secondly, I am beginning to wonder if the town hall was held to reduce the political pressure on her, or to help and listen to the doctors.
How can one say that certain changes may not be right politically, when there are obvious problems in the system?
Increasing the RM1 fee at hospitals is a burden, but do we realise that the same person still smokes a pack a day? If increasing the RM1 fee is “politically not right”, then why not give a 50 sen discount for “pendaftaran rahmah”?
Worse, the media statement from the minister’s office was released within minutes after the end of the town hall, and did not cover many of the topics discussed. Was it prepared earlier, even before the town hall?
Malaysian doctors are back at work after the Wednesday town hall. Many are still hoping that the Prime Minister can help them. Why?
As was announced at the town hall, we do not have the budget, public service is being reduced, etc. Looks like the Ministry of Health (MOH) has no power to proceed, but the real power to solve issues lies with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and JPA (Public Service Department), which is under the PM.
So where is the PM?
Why is he not meeting doctors to solve these issues? The Turkish President looked for support, and this was mentioned in Parliament.
Our doctors are crying for your support too, PM. Please hear our plea. Many voices in Parliament are no longer being heard!
Let’s summarise what happened at the doctors’ town hall with the minister:
- Our on-call allowances have dropped below what is paid in retail outlets. Will there be an on-call Rahmah too? There has been no salary increment or even a review in more than 10 years. While the public may complain about civil servants asking for more money, would you work for 10 years without a review?
- Bullying at the workplace is still rampant. It’s probably the one and only issue that got an answer during the town hall. However, wasn’t there a guideline when the Sungai Buloh sexual harassment case came up years ago? What happened to its implementation?
- The contract positions have been in place since 2016. Are you saying there have been no solutions since then, even though many administrative positions in the service have not changed? Or are we going to blame the change of government?
- Placements are informed at the eleventh hour. If this is how things are done, would the administration in Putrajaya like to be suddenly placed in the interiors of East Malaysia for a staff exchange programme, only receiving the information at the last minute? Be more efficient.
- In Malaysia, are we aware that the specialist-to-patient ratio is 3.7 times lower than the recommended level? Do the people know that despite paying on their own, the government limits the number and intakes of specialists, while we are already behind? Please don’t blame doctors as we want to progress, but the system doesn’t allow us to.
- Subspecialty training: Although it is called Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP), are the MPs aware that the total cost is not actually covered, and some had to withdraw from their Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF)? Some are also expected to fund themselves for a year, without including their families, but some other ministries do not have that restriction. Some departments and states don’t even allow sessional work. After all of this, when they are back, is there a JUSA position or pay rise awaiting them?
- I’m sure the specialists in Malaysia would agree with this: Please don’t lie to the public and broadcast the JUSA positions online. This is a lie. Do we have the data of new JUSA positions, KUP (khas untuk penyandang) positions, and the criteria for these? It is sad when one of the town hall attendees, who will be retiring in two years, spoke of his achievements, but is still stuck at UD56.
- We complain that Malaysia is behind in research, health law, PhD training, etc. However, does the country provide specialist recognition to experts who pay for their own certifications? Who is to blame? Who decides on the National Specialist Register (NSR)? An attendee also mentioned about the specialisation pathway provided by the MOH, but yet is not recognised by the NSR. The MOH can award HLP (Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan), but NSR doesn’t recognise the specialist. Poor governance, I must say.
- Hospital directors must face the public and media, but are they getting recognition? I wonder, as the town hall gave us a different scenario.
- It was brought up at the town hall that some hospitals have to fight for the provision of paper. Some departments don’t even have proper beds. So how do we clear the bottleneck if we have to modify procedures to help patients, while sometimes doing the wrong thing? People of Malaysia, please be careful, as some of your family members may get shortcuts due to the lack of funding in public health care. Don’t blame the doctors then. Also, there was a fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Bahru in 2016. What happened to the independent committee’s report on the worst hospital fire in Malaysian history, which killed six patients?
These problems have been piling up for years, and many faults and loopholes in the system are yet to be noticed.
All the items mentioned above are only the doctors’ problems. Other health care workers are in dire need as well.
We need a Health Care Commission to be set up as soon as possible, and appropriate action to be taken. Otherwise, don’t blame health care workers who say “Kami sedia membantu”, as they are now patients too.
“Government Medical Specialist” is a government doctor who attended Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s town hall with doctors from the public sector on February 22, 2023.
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