By Dr Faris Marwan
Under its new rebranding agenda, Biro Tata Negara recently organised its seventh special edition of Latihan Transformasi Negara (National Transformation Training) mainly for doctors, dentists and pharmacists from the East Coast.
However, there appeared to be a significant lack of transformative thinking in the preparation and conduct of the programme. There was no clarity of vision and there was little substance in the training itself.
What the participants heard were political clichés and skewed interpretations of history. The presentations were racially divisive, juggling emotions with perceptions.
Meanwhile, hospitals nationwide are running out of funds. It is only October, but they are already receiving instructions to exercise economic frugality in clinical practice.
Labs are running out of reagents to conduct tests for pathogens and biochemical irregularities. The choices of antibiotics and medications are put on constraint.
Specialists in training are now required to pay out of their own pockets to attend courses and conferences for professional development. To add to that, for sub-specialty training, applicants are limited to attending only those institutions that don’t charge fees or charge them at minimal rates.
Reports are also surfacing that there are attempts to limit the number of personnel on call or to replace on-call claims with days off.
What has brought us to this? This vicious cycle has to be stopped.
Indeed, human resources development is vital, especially when the economy is turning its back on us. But, the way BTN is delivering its transformation agenda is failing us beyond our worst nightmares.
What we need from our professionals in the civil workforce are empowered individuals who are committed, creative, critical, independent and yet able to collaborate with integrity.
In grooming public services leaders, we don’t need lectures from politicians who are abusing government machinery with partisan rhetoric and delusive insinuations that only they can salvage this nation. In fact, they have done enough damage already.
The latest arrest of senior government officials suspected of having turned their homes into warehouses for cash and luxury items represents perhaps only the tip of an iceberg, but it is already something to shudder at.
BTN needs to revamp itself and jettison Umno’s recipes if it truly intends to instil patriotism and good values into the government workforce. To fulfil its function to enrich talent, strengthen organisation and mould an excellent corporate culture, it has to engage in honest and intense soul searching.
There is obvious urgency to improve the working ethos of civil servants. Major challenges include ensuring efficient governance, transparent procurement and prudent services.
From a healthcare perspective, the promotion of a disease prevention lifestyle should be at the core of the transformation effort. It is equally important to bring about the integration of multi-disciplinary care.
Medication and intervention can be more judiciously tailored if healthcare providers invest their time and energy on empathy. Not to defeat its purpose, mortality and morbidity audits should be positive and progressive, moving away from the who-to-blame puzzle.
The belief that the customer is always right has to be supported with fitting acknowledgement of staff capacity and ability.
BTN should not approach the civil servant with a blanket. In short, it has a big role to play. It holds tremendous responsibility to enhance the quality of the most precious resource we have – human resource.
Do not downgrade people by supposing that ideas can be planted or programmed into them. Treat them as humanely as possible by promoting engagement, discourse and teamwork in building leadership and self-confidence.
Make them love their job and this nation out of their own free will, not out of fear or hope for monetary gain.
Should BTN choose to remain status quo in its approach and politics, the brain drain will only get worse.
Dr Faris Marwan reads FMT.