More than five years after it introduced the controversial contract doctor system, the Health Ministry has finally changed the rules to allow contract doctors to qualify for further study programmes that will enable them to become specialists.
Dental officers employed under contract are now also eligible for such programmes.
Groups like the Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK) movement and the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) have been calling for this change for a long time.
The development was announced in a Jan 5 letter issued by the ministry’s deputy secretary-general (management) Harjeet Singh.
According to the frequently asked questions section of the letter, medical officers and dental officers are now eligible for a four-year Program Latihan Kepakaran (PLK).
“Candidates who fulfil the criteria can apply for sponsorship for PLK through the eHLP system at http://ehlp.moh.gov.my/.
HLP stands for Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan, which is a federal government scholarship for specialisation programmes.
The letter said that the PLK application criteria would be disclosed when applications are open to the public.
According to a notice on the Health Ministry’s Facebook page, PLK applications for contract medical and dental officers will be open on Jan 28.
Doctors thank Khairy
In response to this development, the HDK movement thanked Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin for fulfilling his promise to ensure contract doctors were given a pathway to specialisation.
“Khairy had indeed proven his mettle and determination to solve this issue that had plagued the contract doctors for the past five years.
“We hope that the terms and conditions to apply for HLP will be ironed out soon.
“We also believe that Khairy will also take the necessary actions to solve the other remaining issues faced by contract doctors, as conveyed during his meeting with HDK on Sept 21, 2021,” it said in a statement this morning.
These remaining issues included ensuring “transparent criteria” for contract doctors to be given permanent positions; equal perks and benefits for permanent and contract doctors; plus amending the Pensions Act 1980 to ensure “all contract doctors” received permanent positions plus Employees Provident Fund cover.
“We have the utmost confidence in Khairy Jamaluddin and his team in delivering the remaining of their promises for the sake of the junior doctors and Malaysia’s healthcare system in general,” HDK added.
In July 2021, the HDK movement had organised a nationwide strike to demand better working conditions and an end to the “two-tier system” that discriminated against trainee doctors employed on contracts at government hospitals.
Contract doctors have played a vital role in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.