Government Doctors Pawn Gold, Withdraw ASB To Cover Transfer Costs

A medical officer, relocating from KL to Sabah for placement, says she and her MO friends pawned gold and withdrew from ASB to cover transfer costs. MOH says contract-turned-permanent doctors, dentists, and pharmacists aren’t eligible for transfer claims.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 – Some medical officers have pawned gold and withdrawn from their Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) accounts to finance out-of-state work transfers by month end for permanent appointments.

In a meeting last Thursday, the Human Resource Division (BSM) at the Ministry of Health (MOH) stated that contract medical, dental, and pharmacy officers taking up permanent positions this year are not eligible to claim for their transfers (tuntutan bertukar pindah).

This is because “the period of the officer’s service was disrupted (terputus) from contract to permanent”, according to presentation slides of BSM’s meeting, as sighted by CodeBlue.

Besides ineligibility for transfer claims, contract doctors, dentists, and pharmacists taking up permanent positions in the public health service are also “not eligible for reporting-for-duty claims (tuntutan lapor diri) for transfers this time, by taking into account whether the officer has previously made claims or not”.

The over 4,100 contract medical officers – who chose placements effective July 31 for their permanent positions – have already been working at the MOH for four to seven years; they are not staff newly working in government.

Dr Liza (pseudonym) – a UD43 medical officer who is currently working at a public health clinic in Kuala Lumpur – must report to a district in Sabah by month end for her permanent appointment. She didn’t appeal to stay in the Klang Valley due to the lack of positions, but the MOH rejected her appeal for even a posting to another state in the peninsula.

The 30-year-old doctor, who began her housemanship in 2019, said she doesn’t yet know her exact placement at a klinik kesihatan as she hasn’t received her appointment letter; only which district in Sabah she will be posted to.

“I’ll only know when I get there,” Dr Liza, who requested anonymity due to a civil servant gag order, told CodeBlue yesterday.

The MOH only opened up placements for medical officers, who received permanent positions, through the eHousemen system less than two months ago in five phases from June 9 to 24.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa previously said in a written parliamentary reply last April that medical officers directed for transfers are entitled to certain allowances and benefits, including travel fare, freight fare, meal allowances, and hotel room claims for three days before and five days after the relocation.

Minimum RM5,000 Estimated Cost For Transfer To Sabah

Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Picture dated July 2, 2020 by Boo Su-Lyn.

Dr Liza estimated a minimum of RM5,000 for the cost of her transfer from the capital city to Sabah, including cargo flight costing about RM2,000 to bring over her car; an RM400 personal flight ticket; house rental that can cost RM1,000 a month for a two-bedroom flat (landlords may ask for rental deposit worth up to five months); as well as daily car rental of RM120 at the cheapest and accommodation costs, pending moving into her rented place.

She said she was informed that there were no more vacancies for government housing in the Sabah district where she has been posted to.

“My [medical officer] friends and I pawned our gold and withdrew from our ASB accounts,” Dr Liza told CodeBlue.

She said she got about RM3,000 from pawning gold and withdrew some RM1,000 from her ASB account. Dr Liza has also prepared a credit card on standby.

“I’m just waiting for my pay to come in. This is a very embarrassing situation, but it’s reality. One of my [medical officer] friends only has RM30 left in their bank account.”

Two to three of Dr Liza’s female friends in their early 30s who similarly pawned gold and withdrew from their ASB accounts, according to her, are also medical officers currently working in the Klang Valley who received postings to Sabah for their permanent appointments.

Dr Liza said she takes home a net pay of about RM4,000 a month. “Our title is ‘doctor’, but we’re actually B40.”

The medical officer will be moving to Sabah alone; she and her husband do not have children.

“I wanted to remain in KL because my parents are elderly; my mother’s leg was injured and she has difficulties moving around. I also have an OKU (disabled) family member,” Dr Liza said.

“But I know of others in worse situations than me. My friend, whose three-year-old child has speech delay problems, has to move to Sabah and leave her child behind with her husband.”

Dr Liza said a few medical officers posted to Sabah or Sarawak rejected offers for permanent positions due to financial or family problems. “Some plan to resign.”

BSM: Not Choosing Placements Means Ineligibility For Future Considerations For Permanent Appointments

BSM’s presentation slides from its meeting yesterday detailed the number of contract doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who chose placements for permanent positions between June 6 and 24, as well as numbers on those who rejected permanent position offers and those who did not choose placements.

“The effect of not choosing placements: the offer of permanent appointment is cancelled, the officer’s appointment remains as contract, not eligible for consideration for permanent appointments in future, placement remains at the current placement unless instructed for transfer by the head of department,” said BSM in its presentation slides.

For officers who want to postpone their date of reporting for duty, the effective date for the shortening of their contract period must be changed by their head of department from July 30, 2023 to one day before the officer reports for duty as a permanent appointment, or one day before the officer is approved for postponement.

“The head of department must also ensure that the officer is present for work at the original department throughout the period of approval for the postponement by the new department,” said BSM’s slide.

BSM Allegedly Read ‘Some’ Appeal Letters, ‘Some They Didn’t Even Look At’

Medical officer Dr Lekkah Marappan (left) and her husband Yuvaraj Mohanadas (right) currently live in Selangor. Photo courtesy of Yuvaraj Mohanadas.

The Malaysian Medical Association and Hartal Doktor Kontrak previously reported multiple issues with the eHousemen system for medical officers receiving permanent appointments to choose their placements.

CodeBlue recently reported that the nationwide relocation exercise involving over 4,000 trained doctors has triggered dire staff shortages in the public health service, including in Melaka (Melaka Hospital was forced to cut services) and the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur Hospital and other tertiary hospitals in Selangor are losing dozens to over 100 senior medical officers each).

Overall, about a quarter, or some 1,000 doctors, of those involved in the relocations are currently working in the country’s most populous region serving a population of more than nine million. More than 200 medical officers from HKL, and public hospitals and health clinics in Selangor are expected to be transferred to Sabah and Sarawak.

Dr Lekkah Marappan – a UD43 medical officer currently working in Sultan Idris Shah, Serdang Hospital in Selangor – was “forced to choose” Seri Manjung Hospital in Lumut, Perak, as she couldn’t pick a placement in the Klang Valley due to the eHousemen system being down several times, her husband Yuvaraj Mohanadas wrote on Facebook yesterday.

The 29-year-old doctor had appealed to stay in her current location because she is still breastfeeding her six-month-old baby, her father-in-law is getting treatment for epilepsy, while her mother-in-law has permanent disability in the right hand and recently suffered a slipped disc, according to her June 20 appeal letter posted by her husband on Facebook.

But her appeal was rejected, with a statement that prohibited re-appeals.

After Dr Lekkah received “template answers” from the MOH when she enquired directly with the ministry on why her appeal was rejected, Yuvaraj said he visited MOH Putrajaya’s headquarters last July 13 to ask the same.

Yuvaraj told CodeBlue that he met Syamsul Nizam Mohd Razali, a deputy secretary at BSM, who allegedly told the 32-year-old that “some letters were read and some, they didn’t even look at it”.

“He can casually tell me why not you accept and then request a transfer, which I laughed saying everyone knows how government transfers work. It’ll take bloody two years before my wife is transferred here,” Yuvaraj posted on Facebook.

“After a long debate of nonsensical arguments where he told me contracts don’t have placement in the system and that’s why when they are given permanent they are given new placement and all, finally he accepted the re-appeal letter.”

Yuvaraj told CodeBlue that when he visited MOH Putrajaya again last Thursday to follow up on his wife’s re-appeal letter, he was informed that the result was not out yet and it might come out next week.

‘I’ll Still Vote PH, But I Don’t Want The Health Minister To Stay’

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa addresses the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) monthly staff gathering at MOH’s headquarters in Putrajaya on December 12, 2022. Picture from MOH.

Yuvaraj said that after his Facebook post yesterday – in which he complained about Puchong DAP not helping him with his wife’s case because they were “busy” with the state elections – a staff at the Puchong DAP office told him to pick up Puchong MP Yeo Bee Yin’s support letter next Monday.

“YB Dr Zaliha Mustafa is busy looking at ‘Kertas Putih’ [Health White Paper] where she should listen to her staff’s plight first. Hal rumah tangga pun tak settle, ni dah pergi tengok tempat lain pula (can’t even settle household issues, but want to look at other things),” Yuvaraj posted on Facebook.

“I think [former Health Minister] YB Khairy Jamaluddin did way better when he was in the ministry. If this is how the new Minister of Health works, might as well I vote KJ. At least he did something for all these medical officers.”

Both Yuvaraj and Dr Lekkah are registered voters in Selangor. Yuvaraj is registered in Seri Kembangan; the incumbent assemblyman is Ean Yong Hian Wah from the DAP. Dr Lekkah is registered in Bukit Lanjan, whose incumbent assemblywoman is Elizabeth Wong from PKR.

Six state elections in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu are scheduled for polling on August 12, with nominations set for July 29.

When asked if he would still vote for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the upcoming state election, Yuvaraj told CodeBlue that he would. “But I basically don’t want the Health Minister to remain there. No point as she is not doing anything.”

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