After first protest’s waves, organisers see higher take-up for #HartalDoktorKontrak 2.0

·3-min read
Contract doctors hold placards demanding equal treatment as they go on strike at the Sungai Buloh Hospital July 26, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Contract doctors hold placards demanding equal treatment as they go on strike at the Sungai Buloh Hospital July 26, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 ― The team behind the #HartalDoktorKontrak (HDK) movement said they expect more contract doctors to heed their call to protest the lack of solutions to their woes when Budget 2022 was announced.

After the initial disappointment after the tabling of the Budget 2022, the movement is set to escalate its call for a permanent resolution to their plight.

Following the success of the first #HartalDoktorKontrak, movement spokesman Dr Mustapha Kamal said the second planned protest would make similar demands as the first one, but with added emphasis on contract doctors’ struggle.

Explaining further, he said this would mean greater participation of contract doctors and escalation in the days leading up to the second protest, the details of which have yet to be announced.

When asked whether there was concern that public support and sympathy might wane as the Covid-19 pandemic winds down, Dr Mustapha dispelled the notion and said the public understood that the movement’s goals were not immediately achievable but a long-drawn process that could span years.

“Whatever we are doing is in the public’s interest.

“Any politicians or influencers wanting to hop on are welcomed. At the end of the day it is about public healthcare and the future of our generation,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

In a statement posted on its social media accounts on Monday, the movement’s secretariat said Budget 2022 does not in any way address contract doctors’ struggles, which have been highlighted in the past.

Under Budget 2022, the government announced that 10,000 trainee doctors’ contracts will be extended by another two years.

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.

Hundreds of junior doctors and medical officers in public hospitals in several hospitals nationwide staged a walkout to express dissatisfaction with the government’s announcement of improved benefits and contract extensions.

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.

A special task force led by the Malaysian Medical Association and the Ministry of Health was also set up to oversee an amendment of the Pensions Act 1980 to solve the problem.

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