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HomeLatestThis Is Why Contract Doctors Went On Strike During #HartalDoktorKontrak

This Is Why Contract Doctors Went On Strike During #HartalDoktorKontrak

“I lost faith in this broken system,” says Ida Hidayah, a contract doctor.

She is among the 23,000 contract doctors in this country, and one of the thousands who participated in the #HartalDoktorKontrak on monday, 26 July 2021.

It must be noted here that the participating doctors who participated in the walk out were either on break or not on duty.

Those that were on duty but still feel responsible to voice out have done so too, via placards or simple social media messages, so as to not jeopardise the wellbeing of their patients.

Bahjat Safuraa Ismail, a contract doctor in Melaka who is on duty

Muhamad Aiman, another contract doctor at MAEPS Serdang

The Root Cause Tracing Back To 2016

It boils down to years-long of unresolved issues that junior doctors are facing, primarily revolving around poor and unfair employment terms.

The root cause of the hartal (gujarat word for mass protest or strike) can be traced back all the way to 2016, when a bizarre policy was introduced by the then-government.

The Prime Minister back then was Datuk Seri Najib Razak, while the Health Ministry was led by Health Minister Datuk Seri S Subramaniam and Health Director-General Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Najib, Subramaniam and Noor Hisham sharing a laugh in 2015

Instead of offering permanent positions in the civil service, the government began to roll out contractual positions to junior doctors.

According to doctors, this contract system was initially supposed to be a temporary stop-gap measure to cope with the influx of medical graduates and the government’s inability to absorb the high number of new doctors.

However, with no long-term policies planned, over the last five years, medical officers have only gotten their contracts extended, instead of being offered permanent positions in the civil service.

The current Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Adham Baba admitted in June that between December 2016 and May 2021, a total of 23,077 doctors have been placed under the contract system.

But only 3.47% (789 individuals) have been given permanent positions.

The Unfair Terms Offered To Contract Doctors

According to the Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists (SCHOMOS) of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), contract medical workers have no rights to work benefits offered to public servants, effectively barring them from study leave, maternity leave, housing loans and promotions.

Comparison between contract and permanent doctors

On top of that, contract doctors have to pay for their own training.

They are barred from the opportunity to specialise, because entrance to a Master’s programme in any public university is limited to civil servants.

To add salt to the wound, contract renewals have no clear policy and are not automatically given out based on years of service or merit. Some fear termination at the end of their contracts despite years of study and compulsory training, resulting in loss of job security.

With the bleak future ahead, contract doctors are in a way “cold-storaged”, forcing them to resign and move to private sectors or overseas.

In the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic, it is only fair to note that contract doctors and medical personnels have been risking their own lives to battle the pandemic, and many are burning out.

A study by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) between 21 April 2020 to 20 May 2020 revealed that 54% of the 933 interviewed healthcare professionals were already reporting symptoms of burnout.

It was just three months into the pandemic back then.

By now, more than 16 months into the pandemic, it is very much likely even more doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are experiencing deeper burnout.

This is especially true as Malaysia has continues to report more and more new cases, breaching the 1 million mark on 25 July 2021.

 

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