KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 – The government plans to provide permanent positions for 12,800 contract doctors within three years, Anwar Ibrahim said today.
The prime minister, who is also the finance minister, pointed out that the government allocated RM1.7 billion to hire additional contract doctors and also to provide permanent positions for medical officers for this year.
“So we estimate that if we can do this for three years, this means that we can absorb 12,800 existing contract doctors in three years because this year alone, we absorbed 4,300 – this year alone, 4,300 people – out of the 20,333 contract appointments; 12,800 housemanships are excluded from this category,” Anwar told Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau in the Dewan Rakyat during Ministers’ Question Time.
He acknowledged problems faced by government doctors, citing the strike by a doctors’ group called Mogok Doktor Malaysia yesterday, but stressed that “for this year, we are not able to resolve everything”.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa previously told a town hall with doctors last February that the over 4,900 new permanent positions for medical, dental, and pharmacy officers this year had actually opened up because of resignations, which means that not all of these are new positions created in the public health service. Of the 4,914 vacancies in permanent positions for this year, 4,263 were for medical officers.
Madius asked Anwar in Parliament if the government would publish the selection criteria for permanent and JUSA positions for doctors.
“The selection process is determined by the Public Services Commission (SPA) – academics, experience, expertise, performance, as well as competency – that’s the usual process. But for medicine, this includes a few extra tests included in the category of professional assessment of the relevant officer,” Anwar said.
“I don’t think this is a problem.”
Medical groups have long pushed for the publication of the selection criteria for permanent positions for doctors in the service that they say remain opaque.
When Madius asked if the government would raise doctors’ on-call allowances to RM25 per hour from the current RM9 hourly rate, as asked for by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), Anwar said that doctors’ current on-call rate “is still appropriate according to the rate for working hours, compared to the rate of allowance received by other services”.
“Today, I would like to announce that the government has agreed [to provide] overtime allowances for medical officers on-call at public health clinics and hospital emergency departments, and this covers weekends, for six public health clinics (klinik kesihatan) involved in the pilot project to reduce congestion in government hospitals,” Anwar said.
“I have also instructed the Public Service Department (JPA) and the Ministry of Finance to study the proposal to extend this facility to everyone, besides medical officers.”
It is unclear what Anwar means as medical officers currently receive allowances for working extended hours at public health clinics – although this is limited to pay for four hours’ work after 5pm on weekdays, as well as four hours on Saturdays. Sundays and public holidays are excluded. Non-doctor staff, like pharmacists, can only claim time off for working extended hours.
Klinik Kesihatan Bandar Botanik in Klang, as part of the pilot project by the STAR task force to decongest emergency departments, now operates every day, including Sundays and public holidays, from 8am to 9.30pm.
Doctors’ on-call allowances for working after office hours in hospitals are separate from the allowances for working after office hours at public health clinics.
For active on-calls of more than 15 continuous hours, medical officers are paid an overnight or flat rate of RM200 on weekdays and RM220 on weekends and public holidays. The weekend/ public holiday rate is equivalent to about RM9 per hour for 24 hours’ work.