MMA advises junior contract doctors to take up govt’s offer while awaiting better solution to prolonged career woes

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Dr Subramaniam said that the temporary walkout on Monday by junior contract doctors nationwide was mainly caused by the problem of unequal wages. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Dr Subramaniam said that the temporary walkout on Monday by junior contract doctors nationwide was mainly caused by the problem of unequal wages. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has advised junior contract doctors to take up the government’s recent offer to extend their contracts as a short-term measure, while a permanent solution is drafted.

On July 23, the Cabinet said it had 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.

The announcement came ahead of the #HartalDoktorKontrack protest which was planned for July 26.

MMA president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy told New Straits Times (NST), that the government’s decision to offer a two-year contract extension to medical officers, dental officers and pharmacists was in line with its earlier proposal.

“For an immediate solution, we suggested that all contract doctors be given the right to apply for fully paid study leave and to be able to receive the Federal Scholarship to pursue specialist training.

“We also suggested either the absorption in permanent positions with only Employees Provident Fund (EPF) as an option, failing which we proposed an extended contract of 10 years after the completion of compulsory service.

“The long-term solution was to reduce the number of recognised medical schools in the Second Schedule of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and to reduce the number of medical colleges in the country (where the ratio of medical schools to population is above that of the United Kingdom and Australia).

“We have also supported the continued moratorium on the formation of new medical schools, as well as controlling the intakes of all private medical colleges in the country,” he was reported saying by NST.

Dr Subramaniam said that the temporary walkout on Monday by junior contract doctors nationwide, was mainly caused by the problem of unequal wages between contract and permanent medical officers.

He said that previously, not much attention was given to the issue, which was only addressed “in passing”.

“Although they did receive the much-delayed promotion earlier this year, the sentiment of being treated unfairly has been allowed to fester.

“Despite the recent announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to extend their contracts and equalise the perks, the contract doctors have lost faith in the government’s efforts and are requesting for the immediate absorption as permanent staff of the civil service.

“Their demands are not unwarranted. They have served the country when called upon and are essential to the war against Covid-19.

“However, absorbing the 25,000 contract doctors over the next few years would entail a massive expenditure on the healthcare budget, leaving little for infrastructure development and other purchases.

“While we empathise with contract doctors, the short-term solution is what the government offers at the moment while working to increase permanent positions in the long term,” Dr Subramaniam added.

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