Health minister hopeful of ending contract doctor woes by mid 2024; other healthcare reforms in the pipeline

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — The Health Ministry believes it can solve the protracted issue facing contract doctors in the public healthcare sector by next June.

Its minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa told news portal Malaysiakini in an interview published today that a high-level committee appointed to solve this long-standing issue has held engagement sessions with various medical groups, and the ideas that came from the meetings will be passed on to the federal Cabinet.

“We hope to settle it by at least before mid of next year. The sooner the better,” she was quoted as saying.

The Malaysian Medical Council, which is the regulatory body for doctors, the Malaysian Medical Association, and doctors who were hired on a contract basis were among those the ministry engaged with for ideas.

Dr Zaliha told the news portal that this contract doctor issue had hounded the government since 2016, but a significant number of them have since been offered permanent positions in the public healthcare system.

Last month, she had announced that 2,083 contract doctors would be absorbed as permanent staff by the end of this year.

She told the news portal that the contract doctor issue was only one of several healthcare matters in need of urgent reform in Malaysia, the others being long queues in hospital waiting rooms and ageing and outdated equipment.

She said her ministry is coming up with several measures to reduce the wait time that leads to overcrowding, adding that a few pilot projects had been carried out in March and said they were a success.

“One key way to reduce congestion at emergency departments of government hospitals is by extending operating hours at selected public health clinics,” she was quoted as saying.

She also said that virtual consultations through video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google could also decrease waiting hours.

Dr Zaliha said her ministry is hoping to use its new Budget to upgrade public healthcare clinics, especially those in remote areas and those that were built half a century ago.

“We have identified more than 1,200 clinics that are over 50 years old. These clinics might have problems with piping in flood-prone areas or have outdated equipment.

“The plan is to upgrade the clinics and encourage patients to seek treatment there. This will reduce congestion at tertiary hospitals, which is a high priority,” she was quoted as saying.