Contract doctors will likely know their fate tomorrow

Image from FMT

By John Isaac

STAKEHOLDERS are eyeing tomorrow’s cabinet meeting in anticipation that the government will come to a decision concerning contract doctors.

This came following a discussion between Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and members of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) last week.

Asked if the cabinet will deliberate on allowing contract doctors to specialise, Dr Adham did not specify but signalled a win-win solution.

“We will bring this issue to the cabinet. We need to present the memorandum to the cabinet ministers.

“We need to achieve a decision and solution for the benefit of both parties,” he told Malaysiakini.

Dr Noor Hisham, meanwhile, said a decision will be made within the week.

“Wait for the announcement this week,” he said when contacted.

Earlier today, MMA Schomos (section concerning house officers, medical officers and specialists) Federal Territories representative Dr Timothy Cheng told the media that Dr Adham and Dr Noor Hisham had agreed during last week’s meeting that contract doctors should be allowed to specialise.

However, the ultimate decision lied with this week’s cabinet meeting.

MMA president Dr M Subramaniam said he felt “optimistic” about the situation.

“After the last meeting with the health minister and the director-general, I think I feel a little bit optimistic that there will be something out of it.

“Not everything, but something is better than not having anything at all,” he said during the online press conference.

Aside from Dr Adham and Dr Noor Hisham, MMA previously met with Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz over the lack of job security and job progression opportunities suffered by contract medical officers.

The cabinet’s upcoming discussion comes as it faces pressure from multiple fronts to properly address issues faced by contract medical officers and contract healthcare workers.

Many of these contract staff are at the frontlines of the country’s current Covid-19 crisis.

However, contract medical officers lack the job security and further study opportunities accorded to permanent medical officers.

Contract junior pharmacists, meanwhile, are paid less than their permanent counterparts.

Both MMA and a movement dubbed Hartal Doktor Kontrak (contract doctor strike) have launched concurrent campaigns on the issue.

MMA Schomos chairperson Dr G Vijay said the association’s Code Black campaign had received support from some 15,000 people.

Launched at the beginning of this month, the campaign calls for:

– Clear career or postgraduate pathways for specialisation

– Detailed and transparent criteria for permanent posts

– Equal and fair treatment between contract and permanent staff

– Job security for all doctors and allied healthcare workers

Asked about the Health Ministry’s recent move to grant one-off one-year contract extensions to some contract medical officers, Dr Vijay said this would not solve the problem.

“The healthcare system is currently ill. We need to treat the healthcare system.

“So, in order to treat the healthcare system, we need a proper long-term solution and hence I will not really welcome the one-year extension as a solution to the problem,” he said.

Aside from its online Code Black campaign, MMA today launched an online petition to further pressure the government to accede to its demands.