KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 – Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa told Parliament yesterday that contract doctors are happy to receive permanent positions at the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Dr Zaliha said this in response to Jelutong MP RSN Rayer’s proposal to grant doctors working in emergency wards two days of leave per week for rest.
The DAP lawmaker proposed that doctors should be allowed to take one or two days off on a rotational basis, perhaps on weekends like Saturdays or Sundays, to alleviate their stress and potentially mitigate workplace bullying incidents.
The health minister said while MOH can consider such a suggestion, she also pointed to the ongoing staff shortages and the impossibility of closing public hospitals for even a day.
“Imagine if hospitals were closed for 24 hours, what would happen, especially with the shortage of workers. We are in the midst of improving, God willing. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to human resources, we will look at the situation and, thankfully, last year, we have increased, for example, the placement of contract doctors to permanent.
“That (permanent positions) actually makes them happy, and we have implemented a few other measures to ensure that our employees do not face or experience stressful situations or disturbances to their mental health,” said Dr Zaliha during her policy-level wind-up speech on the 2024 budget yesterday.
The MOH last month announced the relocation of an additional 1,912 health workers following the approval of the Public Service Commission (SPA). This relocation included 1,226 medical officers and followed a large-scale nationwide transfer of over 4,000 contract doctors to permanent positions in July.
Many contract doctors affected by the July 31 transfer expressed dissatisfaction due to limited slots in general and tertiary hospitals in major cities, which forced them to accept placements in district or rural health care facilities.
The MOH received 1,843 appeals from medical officers who were desperate to remain in their existing locations due to family commitments, ongoing studies, or health concerns. Out of these appeals, only 332 were approved.
In July, CodeBlue published a series of reports highlighting the impact of the massive relocation exercise on major public hospitals in Melaka and the Klang Valley, especially at HKL’s emergency department and Selayang Hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) department. Staff shortages were causing potential problems such as resignations, longer wait times, suboptimal care, and possible risks to patients’ lives.
CodeBlue also reported that some doctors in their early 30s had to resort to pawning gold and withdrawing from their Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) accounts to fund their relocation from the Klang Valley to Sabah.
During the MOH’s permanent relocation exercise on July 31, more than 1,000 medical officers were placed in Sabah and Sarawak, affecting central states like Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Selangor, and Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, which suffered a net loss of over 100 doctors each.