Four Medical Groups Want MOH’s ‘Inaccurate’ Statement Retracted, Demand Salary And Allowance Reviews

Four medical groups – MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI – demand a retraction of MOH’s “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” statement on doctors’ on-call allowance. The groups also want a review of health workers’ salaries and allowances that should be done every 5 years.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 – Four medical groups representing government doctors told the Ministry of Health (MOH) today to retract its statement on on-call allowances that they said contained multiple mistakes.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMAM), Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK), and Malaysian Medics International (MMI) denounced MOH’s press statement yesterday titled “Explanation on the On-Call Allowance (ETAP) for Medical Officers” as an “irresponsible” statement that contained “inaccurate and confusing” remarks. 

“The MOH must immediately retract the statement and express regret towards Malaysian medical officers for the inaccuracies,” MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI said in a joint statement.

“The MOH should be more empathetic towards the welfare of doctors and take the initiative to discuss such issues with associations representing medical officers before issuing inaccurate statements.”

The four doctors’ groups also told the MOH to involve associations and bodies representing medical officers to review ETAP and other allowances for medical officers to ensure commensurate compensation for their current working hours and workload.

“The Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Public Service Department (JPA), together with the MOH, must be sensitive towards the welfare of workers in our country’s health sector, and subsequently revise salaries and allowances at least once every five years.”

MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI pointed out that ETAP or the allowance for working outside regular working hours (EKLWBB) were allowances for on-call duty on weekends, not workdays.

“The sentence ‘ETAP is paid based on 15 hours a day’ is not correct because there are 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. For example, an officer doing on-call work on Saturday will be required to work from 8am on Saturday to 8am on Sunday,” the four medical groups said.

An ETAP claims form, attached to the groups’ statement, shows a payment of RM220 for medical officers doing active calls on weekends and public holidays for work outside regular working hours that “exceed 15 consecutive hours”.

MOH’s statement yesterday alleged that it was inaccurate to say that the RM220 weekend active on-call allowance for medical officers amounted to RM9.16 per hour, over 24 hours a day, because “ETAP is paid based on 15 hours a day”. 

MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI said the on-call allowance – which doctors’ groups want raised by 178 per cent to RM25 per hour from the current RM9 hourly rate – is among the current issues faced by medical officers and specialist doctors.

Yet, the MOH’s use of a fictional UD52 specialist doctor named Dr Ali in its statement is “nearly impossible, unrealistic, and very far from the real-life situation faced by many medical officers and specialists”, the groups said.

The ministry’s statement used the example of a fictional Dr Ali – a UD52 specialist doctor whom the MOH said earns RM17,299 monthly in base salary and fixed allowances – to show that Dr Ali would be earning RM826.63 a day on the day he performs on-call duty, the total of his RM576.63 daily income combined with RM250 ETAP. 

(The ETAP for weekend active calls is RM250 for specialist doctors, just RM30 more than the RM220 payment for medical officers).

“It is completely illogical for a UD52 specialist doctor to have such high wages as shown. The MOH must provide a breakdown of this RM17,299, complete with a payslip.”

According to a JPA circular on the salary scales for the medical and health service beginning July 1, 2016, the monthly salary for a U52 officer is from a minimum of RM5,860 to a maximum of RM12,449, with annual salary increments set at RM290.

MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI pointed out that a UD52 officer or specialist doctor would only be able to reach a monthly RM17,299 wage (including allowances) due to annual salary increments by staying in the same grade for 22 years, “an impossible scenario”.

“This example that takes the maximum salary to justify a medical officer’s income at the onset of the salary scale is wrong and will confuse the public. The MOH has given wrong perceptions of medical officers,” they said.

“We must remember that the majority of our medical officers are below the UD52 grade and usually have not served for more than 10 years. Therefore, it’s impossible for them to reach the maximum salary in the salary scale for their respective grade.”

According to the salary scale, the salary for a U44 officer in the medical and health service – which is believed to be the grade where a large number of government doctors are at, especially junior ones – is set at between RM3,611 and RM10,560 a month.

MMA, IMAM, HDK, and MMI provided an actual payslip of a UD52 specialist doctor (personal details redacted) that shows a total monthly gross income of RM11,821, comprising a base salary (RM6,971), fixed housing allowance (RM700), fixed entertainment allowance (RM600), specialist doctor incentive payment (RM2,500), cost of living incentive payment (RM300), and critical service incentive payment (RM750).

They also pointed out that the MOH’s statement itself acknowledged that the last review of the ETAP on-call allowance was more than a decade ago in 2012. 

“Is it appropriate for 11 years to pass without any raise, in light of medical inflation at nine per cent every year?” they questioned, citing a study that showed medical costs in Malaysia increased by an average of eight to nine per cent annually between 2013 and 2018.

“Salaries and allowances should be recalibrated in line with the rising cost of living, or once every five years.”

While the doctors’ town hall with Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa last February called only for an increase in the on-call allowance, the four medical groups have now gone a step further to demand for a raise in not just that particular allowance, but other allowances and even salaries too, following a wave of anger triggered by the MOH’s statement yesterday.

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