Report: Contract pharmacists threaten walkout unless govt ends interviews for permanent positions

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 — Some government hospitals might see their contract pharmacists walk out on the job in protest of a required interview as part of the procedure for permanent positions.

The Star today reported that contract pharmacists are feeling discriminated against and are ready to stage a walkout if their absorption into permanent staff is not valued.

“If we are still being discriminated against and not given due importance when it comes to permanent jobs, I think we will stage a walkout.

“But before that, we are requesting that the Health Ministry (MoH) give us permanent jobs right away rather than conduct interviews again and again,” an unnamed spokesman for the Hartal Pharmacists Kontrak group was quoted as saying.

He questioned the need for a 15-minute interview for contract staff to get permanent positions, citing it as a waste of time and an unnecessary step.

“It is a waste of the interviewer’s time as well because we have been working for six to seven years in MoH. Do we still need to be interviewed?” he said.

He suggested that an alternative could be to let bosses and superiors evaluate a candidate’s performance and qualifications for a permanent position.

On January 21, the group took to Twitter to air the contract pharmacists’ discontent, claiming they were being sidelined and denied permanent positions despite having served more than five years and contributing to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The movement formed after queries to the ministry and the Public Services Commission (PSC) on why the 2016/2017 batch of contract pharmacists was not called for the interview session despite being the oldest batch went unanswered.

The spokesman claimed that about 86 pharmacists from the 2016/2017 batch stayed with the ministry out of loyalty.

“When some of us asked the PSC and the Health Ministry, we were told that we had been given chances twice previously, but when they called us for the first time in February 2020, there were vacancies for 30 pharmacists nationwide and they called almost 600 of us (for the interview),” he claimed.

He said in the second interview in June 2022, there were only 400 vacancies for 1,500 applicants.

However, he said the 2016 batch was called for interviews.

Earlier on January 6, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced a total of 4,914 permanent positions will be added to the ministry’s roster.

Of that 4,914 positions, 4,263 openings would be for medical officers, 335 for dentists, and 316 for pharmacists.

The spokesman said the added positions for pharmacists only equated to eight per cent of the openings for doctors.

“And when all these doctors get their placements, do they think the understaffed pharmacies can cater to the patients treated by the more than 4,200 doctors?

“At the end of the day, patients will complain about us and blame us for the late distribution of medicines, but the issue is that we lack the manpower,” he said.

The movement formed after the Hartal Doktor Kontrak in 2021, when contract doctors staged a nationwide walkout in July 2021 in protest of the government contract system.

According to the Health Ministry’s Health Facts 2022 report, the ratio of doctors to the population in 2021 was one to 420, while pharmacists were one to 1,758.