KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 – The Health Ministry has instructed more than 400 contract pharmacists to quit public service before taking up permanent positions next December 18, similar to forced resignations for their doctor peers in the same cohort.
According to a circular by the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Human Resource Division (BSM) last November 6, the Public Services Commission (SPA) approved last October 2 the permanent appointments of 470 contract UF41 or UF44 pharmacists as UF41 pharmacy officers.
As of last October 23, a total of 405 contract pharmacists chose their placements; 21 chose placements but had yet to complete the process of accepting their offers of permanent appointments; five did not choose placements; while 39 officers had their permanent appointments cancelled either because their contracts had ended, they had resigned, or their service had been terminated.
“Officers who accept permanent appointments must tender a notice of resignation as a contract UF41/ UF44 pharmacy officer – effective on the date of reporting for duty, which is December 18, 2023 – to their original head of department,” said the BSM circular, as sighted by CodeBlue.
“With the date of effect of the resignation notice for this [contract] position, officers will be required to report for duty and serve in the set placement.
“For your information, resignation notices will be irrevocable after taking effect and whatever matters related to the officer’s service under contract can no longer arise after resignation.”
Contract pharmacists are worse off than their doctor peers because pharmacy officers who are currently in the UF44 grade under contract will be demoted to UF41 upon entering permanent service.
CodeBlue reported yesterday that more than 1,000 contract medical officers from the October 2 cohort were instructed to tender their resignations, effective December 18, the same day when they report for duty as permanent appointments in their new location.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has said that the MOH’s new requirement for contract doctors to quit government service before they can accept permanent positions would prevent medical officers from claiming for transfer reimbursement, besides affecting their salary grades and promotions. This new rule, said the MMA, has never been done before.
The language in the November 2 BSM circular for contract medical officers on mandatory resignations before taking up permanent posts is the same as in the November 6 circular for contract pharmacy officers.
“Once I go for permanent in Sabah, I will need to restart back at [UF] 41,” a contract UF44 pharmacy officer, who is currently based in a government hospital in Perak, told CodeBlue yesterday. “Such a rule only started for these last two batches [including my October 2 batch].”
The pharmacist added that the requirement for resignation letters was new, similar to the mandate for doctors.
An email by the Public Service Department’s (JPA) salary and allowance division sent earlier this month to a contract pharmacist from the October 2 batch – who received a permanent appointment – stated that the officer was not eligible to claim for transfer costs because the officer’s period of service was “disrupted” (‘terputus’) from contract to permanent.
The pharmacy officer had asked JPA if they could claim for relocation, like flight tickets, cargo, hotel accommodation, and meals.
Strangely, JPA did not make reference to its own circular last October 9 that changed the definition of “officer” to expand eligibility for interstate transfer allowances beyond permanent officers to also cover temporary or contract of service staff, effective from October 9, 2023.
Instead, JPA’s email to the contract pharmacy officer, as sighted by CodeBlue, cited the existing definition of “officer” in Regulation 4 of the Public Officers (Appointment, Promotion and Termination of Service) 2012.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had even, last October 16, praised the JPA’s move to amend the definition of “officer”, saying that this would enable “all temporary and contract officers” in the MOH to claim for interstate relocation costs.
Responses on X to CodeBlue’s story yesterday on forced resignations for contract medical officers accepting permanent appointments triggered plenty of angry responses, as many Malaysians, including government doctors, branded the policy change as “evil”. Some also questioned if it was legal.
Dr Zaliha, who is currently attending the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, did not respond to CodeBlue’s questions on the rationale behind compelling contract doctors to quit public service before taking up permanent positions.
Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar also did not respond to CodeBlue’s questions on whether such forced resignations were in breach of labour laws.
The contract system for government health care professionals like doctors, dentists, and pharmacists was started by the Barisan Nasional administration in 2016. At that time, it was only meant to be a temporary solution to the glut of housemen amid a shortage of permanent positions.
That glut no longer exists today. Pending clarification from the health minister, the new policy under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration of forced resignations on contract doctors and pharmacists (dentists unknown) appears to be the government’s way of trying to resolve contract health care staff issues, including relocation allowances, albeit by not having to deal with them at all.