The Labour Law Reform Coalition calls on the government to stop the precarious contract employment system in the Ministry of Health and make contract doctors permanent staff.
It is truly disheartening to learn that contract doctors at public hospitals, who are also an important component of front-line personnel, have decided to go on strike in protest of employment insecurity when the country is fighting an uphill health crisis.
It does not make sense that, on the one hand, the Ministry of Health continually alarmed the public that front-line personnel were exhausted at duties and the public healthcare system was on the brink. On the other hand, the ministry is keeping young doctors on contract status.
We contend that the government should transfer unused budgets from other ministries to the ministry. Contract doctors ought to be made permanent workers, and more medical doctors and nurses should be employed to strengthen our public healthcare system.
It is high time to address the problem of shortage of personnel in our public healthcare by increasing the health budget to 7% of gross domestic product (GDP), a decent level that an upper-middle-income country like Malaysia should achieve.
Beefing up the budget for the employment of more healthcare workers will resolve the problem of long waiting queues at public hospitals and the exodus of medical doctors to private hospitals, and ensure work-life balance for healthcare workers.
We call on the government to use the pandemic as an opportunity to tackle the structural problem of our healthcare system and protect workers’ employment security.
Lastly, we remind the government that hospital cleaners are also front-line personnel; the ministry should also convert their contract status to permanent status.
N Gopal Kishnam is co-chairperson of the Labour Law Reform Coalition