Recognise Clinical Researchers With PhDs As Specialists: Ipoh Timor MP

Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee urges MOH to recognise medical officers with clinical research PhDs as specialists, raising complaints from some of these doctors about not getting a pay raise and even suffering salary cuts because of allowance issues.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee Chuan Yow yesterday urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to recognise medical officers with PhDs in clinical research as specialist doctors. 

The DAP lawmaker held that medical officers, despite holding a doctorate in clinical research, are facing employment issues, no raise in their salaries or allowances, and are even facing pay cuts. 

“We hear and receive complaint letters related to candidates or people who have completed their PhD in clinical research, but have not gotten an increase in allowance or pay as a PhD holder [because] supposedly MOH does not recognise them as a specialty with [a] clinical research PhD,” Lee said during Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s winding-up speech for the Supply Bill 2024 in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday. 

“Of course, there are issues regarding appointments, [and] additionally, some have their salaries cut because there are allowances that, before this, were not claimed.” 

Former Health Minister and current Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad urged the health minister to conduct research into the job market to create more positions that would facilitate the MOH’s shift from treatment to preventive care. 

He held that such a study would allow contract-turned-permanent doctors to specialise in other fields that would benefit primary care facilities. 

“When we take the attitude to give contract doctors permanent [positions], the government needs to immediately, through the NIH, the National Institutes of Health, do a study. Not only, take them (contract doctors) into permanent positions, but we need to look to the job market. Primarily, when we talk about wanting to shift to one that is preventive, promotive, primary health care. So we can develop those positions, and they don’t compete in the same specialties. 

“So, that is one need. Whether it is from a research perspective. Offload acute care and curative care to clinic and primary care. So, there needs to be more planning and research that is more comprehensive so that when we make them (contract doctors) permanent staff or permanent doctors, we can develop job creation in the health services scheme,” said Dzulkefly during Dr Zaliha’s winding up speech. 

In a separate post on X, formerly Twitter, yesterday, Dzulkefly recommended that the NIH immediately make recommendations for new positions in the public health service based on the “needs” of the system, especially in the primary health care and wellness model. 

The new positions Dzulkefly championed include those in rehab or palliative care to tackle Malaysia’s ageing society and positions in clinical research.  

Infectious disease expert Prof Dr Christopher Lee, in a post on X, held that he is in total agreement with both Lee and Dzulkefly on the need to expand the MOH in areas such as primary care and geriatrics, stating that expansion in these areas would address the future needs of the nation. 

The former Health deputy director-general added that career pathways for clinical researchers ensures that Malaysia’s services continue to be “evidenced based and locally relevant.” 

Dr Zaliha yesterday said that the NIH is currently conducting research into the placement of doctors. She also said that she saw the importance of intervening in the above matters with an “evidence-based strategy”. 

“Although we actually did do mapping, the mapping is still not complete, and NIH is still carrying it out. 

“The same thing with what was said by Ipoh Timor (Lee). So, God willing, we will put everything inside and see holistically what is needed and so on,” said Dr Zaliha, responding to both Lee and Dzulkefly in Parliament.

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