Health Workers’ Mental Issues A ‘Red Flag’: MMA

MMA tells the government to view CodeBlue’s survey findings on mental health issues among public health care professionals as a “red flag”. “Even a single health care worker admitting to struggling with mental health issues is a cause for concern.”

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 – The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to immediately address mental health issues among health care workers in the public service.

MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz described the findings of CodeBlue’s recent survey among government health care professionals as “deeply concerning”.

“The MMA fears there may be numerous other health care professionals silently battling these issues, hesitant to speak out,” Dr Azizan said in a statement.

“While the survey might not encompass the vast entirety of the public health care workforce, even a single health care worker admitting to struggling with mental health issues is a cause for concern.

“The government must view these findings as a red flag and immediately take necessary steps to improve the work environment in all of its facilities in line with its planned health care reforms.”

CodeBlue’s survey conducted last July among 87 government health care workers (mostly MOH doctors) revealed that 89 per cent of respondents attributed their mental health issues to work, while 76 per cent chose not to seek counselling or psychiatric therapy due to perceived difficulties in career progression.

More than seven in 10 of total respondents reported either having mental health issues or uncertainty about their mental health status. Depression was the most common diagnosis cited.

MMA highlighted the Auditor-General’s 2018 report that found one in five emergency doctors in the public sector exhibited burnout syndrome, while 35.5 per cent of respondents experienced emotional burnout.

“A toxic work culture within the public health care sector can have a significant impact on the quality of care, patient safety, and overall care outcomes,” Dr Azizan said.

MMA urged the government to rectify the maldistribution of health care professionals, ensure fair and reasonable working hours, and to decongest public health care facilities by collaborating with the country’s network of 13,000 private general practitioners (GPs) to manage patients with non-communicable disease (NCD).

The doctors’ group stressed the need for a healthier work culture and environment in public health care facilities, besides preventing stigma and discrimination against health care workers with mental health issues.

“Health care workers facing issues in their workplace can also seek help through MMA’s Helpdoc – a dedicated platform to voice concerns and report bullying and harassment incidents.”

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