Contract extension in Budget 2022 not lasting solution, #HartalDoktorKontrak says

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Contract doctors hold aloft placards demanding equal treatment as they go on strike at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital July 26, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Contract doctors hold aloft placards demanding equal treatment as they go on strike at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital July 26, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — The government’s proposed two-year extension for 10,000 contract doctors in Budget 2022 would not fundamentally alter the group’s fate, said the #HartalDoktorKontrak movement.

Movement spokesman Dr Mustapha Kamal expressed dismay when contacted about the matter, saying the move indicated waning regard for contract doctors and medical officers in public service.

“I actually have nothing much to say, it shows the government is not interested in retaining young doctors.

“Use us when needed. Now that (Covid-19) cases are declining, time to throw doctors away. It’s like we are becoming disposable liners instead of frontliners,” Dr Mustapha told Malay Mail.

Dr Mustapha stressed that the issue of contract doctors could not be ignored for much longer as nearly half of those in the public sector fell in this category.

This was made clear when Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Parliament that the ministry has 33,885 permanently employed doctors and 23,096 doctors in its stable, he said.

“Half of the contract doctors are in the service, but only 10,000 were offered extensions,” Dr Mustapha lamented.

At the height of this year’s Covid-19 wave, some contract medical officers and doctors participated in a nationwide strike to draw attention to their limited prospects and benefits compared to counterparts in permanent service.

The movement was dubbed #HartalDoktorKontrak, with Hartal meaning a general strike.

In July, the Cabinet agreed to appoint medical officers, dental officers and pharmacists by contract for a period of two years once they have completed their compulsory service to ensure continuity of service and preparation for pursuing specialist studies.

The Cabinet also agreed to extend the contractual appointment to a maximum of four years for medical officers and dental officers who are pursuing specialisation studies during the contract period of the first two years.

Since then, the group had been anticipating a more permanent arrangement in Budget 2022.

When this did not materialise when the Budget was tabled on Friday, #HartalDoktorKontrak called the latest extension a band aid that would push the problem down the road.

When tabling Budget 2022, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced that Putrajaya would extend the contract of over 10,000 medical doctors, dentists and pharmacists to four years from the initial two years.

The Health Ministry will receive the second-highest allocation of RM34.4 billion under Budget 2022, behind the Education Ministry’s RM52.6 billion.

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