Exhausted contract doctors deserve honourable terms to boost morale

The country’s contract doctors must be granted permanent employment and career pathways to excel in the interest of the nation

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WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

The ongoing plight of contract doctors in Malaysia – who have been made to do national service in this period of the health pandemic at government hospitals throughout the country – is crying out for justice.

All that these young doctors are justifiably asking for is that their terms of contract and service be reviewed so they will have an opportunity to pursue specialisation and aim for a progressive career in their chosen medical profession.  

The government’s knee-jerk response of granting contract doctors a mere two years’ tenure leaves the doctors in a quandary. They rightfully ask what certainty is there that, at the end of the temporary two-year extension of their contract of employment, they would eventually be offered permanent appointments.  

So far, the Ministry of Health has not given any assurance to these contract doctors that they will be absorbed into full-time employment. Such is the predicament of these contract doctors who have been slogging for the past few months to save the lives of the now a million-over infected Covid-19 patients.  

Patriot is fully aware that our young doctors are stressed out, with insufficient rest and working long, gruelling hours under extreme duress and challenging conditions. Being contract doctors, they are not entitled to the full benefits enjoyed by those under permanent employment.  

Is the MoH blind to the fact that these young contract doctors are doing their best to save precious lives despite the inherent risks to their own safety and wellbeing?

Is the work and commitment put in by our front-line heroes and heroines not worthy to be given the honour and motivation deserving for their onward progress and continued service to the nation? 

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If this is not sheer exploitation then what is it, pray tell us? Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin, in a recent statement stated that the government would look into proposals to solve the current predicament faced by contract doctors. 

But Patriot has not yet seen an efficacious resolve. On the contrary, what we see is the dishing out of threats against the doctors who are gearing towards staging a protest out of sheer desperation and a sense of betrayal by the government. How can our leaders disregard the crucial need, importance and role of our medical staff, especially when the country is facing a health pandemic of unprecedented proportions?  

The MoH and other related agencies involved in managing the Covid scourge of late is being increasingly and widely perceived as performing poorly and unprofessionally in handling the Covid situation. The daily steady increase in the number of infections and death is cause for grave concern.  

In this climate of great national peril, Patriot demands to know, is the MoH not concerned about losing our precious young doctors? From news reports, we understand that the ministry has stated that the government is unable to provide permanent employment for the doctors because of budget deficits.

But Patriot seeks to know how why a million ringgit of monthly salaries can be budgeted to pay the monthly salaries of the prime minister and 20 of his ministers?

We are not even talking about the bloated 70-member cabinet ministers and their deputies and other political appointees, whose total monthly salaries – not including their perks and benefits – run into millions of ringgit, eating up a huge chunk of the country’s wealth. The MoH itself has one minister and two deputies.

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Yet our young aspiring doctors who are the backbone of the nation’s healthcare system are being treated without honour and motivation. This is acrimonious in the interest of the larger context of building our beloved nation.

If ministers and deputy ministers are handsomely paid for work that the public does not see and feel, why are these young doctors, who are perpetually under pressure to save lives, being paid a pittance and dumped into the chute of uncertainty?    

Patriot wishes to state without fear or favour that the health minister and the prime minister must take the full brunt of the numerous failures in our battle with the national enemy, Covid. Not only are doctors being sidelined but even the health and medical facilities much needed to meet and battle the virus’ spread leave much to be desired. 

Patriot believes that there is a disproportionate growth in and the strengthening of our nation’s medical and healthcare services to adequately meet the growing population and its inherent changes in the profile compared to the emphasis on the physical growth and development of the country. 

Towns and cities are growing at a rapid pace throughout the country, but where are the hospitals, polyclinics and related facilities to provide comprehensive healthcare for the citizens?  

The action taken by these contract doctors to resign or protest at a crucial time when the country needs their services most should never have happened.  

Patriot believes and advocates strongly that our country’s contract doctors must be granted permanent employment and career pathways to excel in the interest of our nation. And issues relating to their wages, allowances and other benefits deserve to be reviewed. There should be no racial profiling but purely increasing and improving the country’s medical and healthcare capabilities. 

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The contract doctors have a legitimate, honourable, ongoing concern and Patriot stands by them in this, their hour of crucial need and challenges faced.

While some may plead that doctors must remember their oath of primum non nocere (first, do no harm) to patients, Patriot reminds the government and the MoH in particular of its obligation to inspire, nurture and safeguard Malaysia’s human capital – our young doctors. 

Retired Brigadier General Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)

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