KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has requested approval from the Public Service Department (JPA) to extend doctors’ locum allowances to cover work on Sundays and public holidays.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, in a written Dewan Negara reply to Senator Balasubramaniam Nachiappan yesterday, also said that MOH has asked for locum allowances to be expanded to other service schemes like pharmacy and science officers, as previously requested to the JPA.
“MOH requests that such applications be reviewed again by the Public Service Department (JPA),” she said.
The health minister explained that medical officers are currently paid RM80 per hour in the locum allowance for after-hours work at public health clinics (klinik kesihatan) and hospital emergency departments.
“This rate is better than the private sector. For members of the implementation group, they are paid overtime allowance.”
Balasubramaniam had asked if operating hours at public health care facilities have been extended following the announcement of Budget 2023 and if claims for extended hours would be adjusted accordingly.
In her reply to the senator, Dr Zaliha highlighted the pilot project under the Special Task Force to Reform the Public Sector (STAR) that started last March 25 at Klinik Kesihatan Bandar Botanik in Klang that extended operating hours until 9.30pm every day, including Sundays and public holidays, to decongest the emergency department at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR).
Services offered by the public health clinic throughout all operation hours include medical examinations conducted by health care professionals, treatment for minor ailments, services by family medicine specialists, laboratory tests, and X-ray imaging.
It is unclear why the multi-agency STAR task force led by Chief Secretary to the Government (KSN) Mohd Zuki Ali did not sort out allowances for doctors to work during extended hours on Sundays and public holidays, as well as for non-doctor health care professionals, before launching the Klinik Kesihatan Bandar Botanik pilot project last Saturday.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, who is an advisor to Dr Zaliha, told CodeBlue in an interview last month that STAR comprises representatives from MOH, JPA, and the Finance Ministry, among others, and that the KSN’s leadership of the task force would enable any necessary circulars to be changed.
Previously, CodeBlue reported an MOH directive issued to limit the allowance paid to medical officers for working extended hours at public health clinics. The March 8 circular stated that incentive payment for medical officers on duty can only be paid for up to four hours.
JPA told Dr Zaliha and MOH officials during a meeting last February to stop extended hours at klinik kesihatan on Sundays and public holidays, saying staff cannot be paid for such services.
JPA had cited the Health director-general’s No.8/2007 circular that limited extended-hour services at public health clinics to 5pm to 9pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday), as well as from 8am to 12pm on Saturdays. Services on Sundays and public holidays were excluded.