Hartal Wants Minimum Three-Month Freeze Of Doctor Transfers

Hartal Doktor Kontrak calls for a temporary suspension of permanent MO transfers for 3-6 months, while their junior replacements (floating MOs) get trained. Melaka state health exco Ngwe Hee Sem is set to meet Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa on July 20.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 – Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK) has called for a temporary suspension of transfers of trained medical officers (MO) for at least three months to prevent service disruptions caused by staff shortages.

CodeBlue yesterday highlighted a potentially severe shortage of medical staff across public health care facilities in Melaka, as the omission of the entire state from doctors’ permanent placements has forced many MOs to relocate by month end, while doctors from other regions were unable to opt for placements in Melaka. 

Melaka Hospital has already halted its iFOBT (immunochemical faecal occult blood test) colorectal cancer screening service and is looking to halve the number of elective surgeries offered.

To address this impending crisis, HDK proposed a temporary suspension of permanent MO transfers for a period of three to six months once junior doctors – who are slated to replace trained MOs – complete their training.

“As many floating MOs (housemen turned MO) will be getting their placement today, there will be an overlap, and the newcomers can learn and improve their skills first so they can take over once the permanent MO is relocated,” HDK told CodeBlue in a statement yesterday.

Additionally, HDK suggested that the Ministry of Health (MOH) provide hospitals facing staff shortages due to the upcoming relocations with the option to outsource cases to private or teaching hospitals by allocating the necessary budget. 

“Surely, the Madani government will not hesitate to channel the funds needed for this.”

The MOH has devised a plan to gradually station medical officers who completed their graduate training in affected facilities, starting this month. Over the course of June to December 2023, a total of 3,226 medical officers are slated to complete their graduate training or compulsory service in stages.

However, a surgeon at Melaka Hospital pointed out that substituting trained medical officers with those who just completed their housemanship was not an equitable solution. 

HDK further proposed a system of temporary “lending” doctors, where hospitals with surplus MOs can lend their staff to facilities in need of additional manpower. 

The contract doctors’ group claimed that MO shortages extend beyond Melaka, with many other states expected to face similar problems of departures exceeding replacements.

HDK, in their previous statement, warned that the relocation exercise would trigger an “alarming” void in many departments, hospitals, and clinics. 

“This issue is not an isolated issue, but in fact many other states will face the same problem; more people leaving than coming in to replace,” HDK told CodeBlue.

CodeBlue’s report on the Melaka crisis also highlighted that medical officers under the UD41, UD43/44, UD47/48, UD51/52, and UD53/54 pay grades all fall under the Public Service Department’s (JPA) “Pengurusan dan Profesional” category for medical and health services, making it impossible to distinguish officers’ roles – whether they are clinical-based or non-clinical based, or if they are trained or specialised in certain areas.

In response to this concern, HDK underlined the urgent need to establish a Health Services Commission to regulate health human resources separately from other civil servants. 

“Health care workers should not be under the jurisdiction of JPA, who seems to be out of touch with the reality on the ground,” HDK said.

“The Health Minister’s recent statement to Utusan, suggesting that it would take 15 years to form the Commission, is absurd and [takes] too long, considering the government [holds] a two-thirds majority (in Parliament) and the proposal to form a commission will definitely be agreed upon by all lawmakers irrespective of parties.”

Establishment of a Health Services Commission was completely omitted from the Health White Paper – which documents proposed health care reforms over 15 years – that was passed recently by Parliament.

Meanwhile, Ngwe Hee Sem, the Melaka state executive councillor in charge of health, human resources and unity, is scheduled to meet Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa on July 20 to discuss issues in Melaka, including the possibility of allowing government doctors to stay in their current locations until further notice, instead of being compelled to relocate by the end of the month and subsequently reversing the decision. 

“This is one of the issues I’m going to discuss with YBMK,” Ngwe, who is also Machap Jaya state assemblyman, told CodeBlue briefly in a text message yesterday.

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