KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 – Opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) does not support any planned strikes by health care workers, including the upcoming government doctor’s strike scheduled from April 3 to 5.
Despite feedback from doctors during a town hall meeting last month with Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa that they see no hope for improvement, Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, the head of PN’s health portfolio and MP for Kuala Langat, said there is still ample space for productive, two-way conversations between health care workers and the government.
“I still believe that the current situation should be managed peacefully, meaning there is still room for discussion. I believe there is a solution, and that’s what we should aim for. It is not through demonstrations, like the strike that took place previously,” Dr Ahmad Yunus told CodeBlue in an interview in Parliament last Tuesday.
The Opposition lawmaker said he had a meeting with individuals who had participated in last year’s strike, and claimed they too did not believe that demonstrations were the most effective way to address their concerns.
“That is why I think we in Perikatan Nasional do not support the idea of finding solutions through demonstrations. We have plenty of room at the government level for more conducive two-way discussions.”
The Star previously reported that Mogok Doktor Malaysia, a doctor’s strike movement, has asked 8,000 contract medical officers to take emergency or medical leave from next Monday to Wednesday as a sign of protest against “low wages and an unfair system”.
The group also claimed that some 3,000 medical officers are set to resign tomorrow.
Mogok Doktor Malaysia posted on Instagram an announcement, urging Malaysians not to visit any public hospital or health clinic from April 3 to 5, as “waiting times in hospitals are expected to be longer than usual”.
The group is demanding the absorption of all contract medical officers into permanent positions, basic salary increments, higher on-call rates, and an automatic reduction in the compulsory service term for medical officers to three years. They are also calling for a reduction in on-call and work hours for medical officers and house officers, and for specialist shortages to be addressed.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has yet to announce its preparations for the “strike” action.
Hartal Doktor Kontrak, the group that organised a nationwide work-stoppage last year, has denied involvement in the upcoming strike. They stated that in their fight for justice, patient care remains their “top priority”.
Other health care worker groups like Hartal Ahli Fisioterapi and Hartal Ahli Farmasi Kontrak have also denied planning any strike, but have called for immediate engagement with the Health Ministry to address their concerns.
To date, two town hall meetings appear to have been held by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration. The first, which took place on February 22, was with government doctors, and the second, on March 15, was with health inspectors.
Dr Ahmad Yunus has placed high hopes on the Health White Paper, set to be tabled in June, calling it a critical first step in reforming the health care sector. He also reiterated PN’s call to create a Health Service Commission to oversee health care professionals independently of other civil servants under the Public Service Department (JPA).
The PAS MP also highlighted the potential role of Parliament’s newly approved Health Select Committee in finding solutions to health care worker issues. “I do see a light (at the end of the tunnel) if we can manage this well.”