Perikatan Nasional Demands Royal Commission On Health Care

Perikatan Nasional and Armada demand a royal commission on health care, pointing out that Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has yet to produce concrete solutions to issues like doctors’ low on-call allowances and contract issues among health workers.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 – Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Bersatu’s youth wing Armada today called for a royal commission on health care to resolve the worsening crisis in the public health care system.

Dr Aiman Alias, a committee member of the PN coalition’s health portfolio under Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, highlighted the exponential trend in the resignations of contract doctors that saw 1,354 quitting the public health service in 2022, exceeding the 1,279 resignations in the previous two years combined.

He also highlighted mental health issues among health care workers, disparities between contract and permanent officers in the health service, as well as low on-call allowances for government doctors.

“Measures taken by MOH (Ministry of Health) before this can be seen as a mere reflex response that is simply intended to reduce or solve surface issues without a serious attempt to address the root causes,” Dr Aiman said in a statement today.

He pointed out that although Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa held a town hall meeting last month with doctors in the public health service, “many of those in attendance had expressed their disappointment with the session because it was seen as a mere ‘publicity stunt’ on her side without providing concrete solutions to resolve problems”.

Dr Aiman, who is also a health exco in Armada, criticised Dr Zaliha’s apparent nonchalance in the matter, noting that the minister has simply asked all parties to await the Health White Paper that is expected to be tabled in June.

“Armada and Perikatan Nasional are questioning, until June, how many more medical officers will continue to quit? How many will continue to face mental pressures? How many officers will continue to be paid on-call allowances that are lower than the pay for McDonald’s workers?”

At the town hall with Dr Zaliha, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) called for a 178 per cent increase in weekend on-call claims for government doctors from the current RM9 hourly rate (lower than retail and restaurant staff) to RM25 per hour. Doctors in Singapore are paid over RM60 per hour for working on-calls.

“We – Armada and Perikatan Nasional – once again demand for the formation of a royal commission to resolve this issue comprehensively,” Dr Aiman said, expressing the Opposition’s support for the recent call by the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM) to form a royal commission on health care.

“We also urge YBMK to call all parties to work and sit together to resolve this issue, be it from the government, the Opposition, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), associations, and all stakeholders,” Dr Aiman added, referring to the health minister.

The Opposition also questioned the government’s move in establishing a new Special Task Force to Reform the Public Sector (STAR) chaired by Chief Secretary to the Government (KSN) Mohd Zuki Ali to reduce overcrowding in public hospitals’ emergency rooms.

Dr Aiman pointed out that the identities of the members of the STAR task force have yet to be disclosed. 

“Why weren’t qualified medical experts appointed to chair the task force that was clearly set up to resolve problems in hospitals? Why are we still appointing bureaucrats who may not be able to see and understand this issue well?

The formation of STAR was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Fadillah Yusof during Question Time in Parliament last February 28. Dr Zaliha did not hold a press conference subsequent to Fadillah’s announcement to explain STAR’s terms of reference, work, and objectives. 

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii told CodeBlue in an exclusive interview recently that the fact that the KSN is leading the multi-agency task force shows the government’s urgency in decongesting emergency departments. 

“Didn’t YBMK learn from the formation of MOH’s Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) during the previous administration that was mostly staffed with people who were not health care workers?” Dr Aiman questioned. 

“In the end, HWCITF produced a report that many health workers felt was inaccurate, especially on the issue of bullying of housemen.”
The HWCITF formed by then-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration found, based on its survey of more than 110,000 MOH staff across 30 service schemes, that only 7 per cent of total respondents reported experiencing workplace bullying or harassment. HWCITF’s report omitted the prevalence of bullying among housemen and junior medical officers specifically. 

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