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Monday, December 30, 2019

It’s about govt failures, not the allowance

More than 75,000 signatures have been collected to urge the Cabinet to revise the decision on the critical service incentive allowance.
It’s not just about junior doctors being overworked and underpaid. Many don’t even have jobs to begin with. The angry reaction of Malaysians stems from the following issues.
  • Respect for the government has been lost, by the handling of major issues in the Ministry of Health. Failure to heed warnings over the glut of medical schools and graduates, and damage control measures to salvage the housemanship system, have resulted in jobless junior doctors.
Specialisation pathways for medical officers and gazettement procedures for specialists are disorganised and messy. Biased and opaque evaluation and assessment system for healthcare professionals have caused many to leave government service.
  • Facility failure resulting in death of patients (such as the fire in Johor Bahru) with no public explanation years later, water and electricity cuts in tertiary hospitals and many more. Tertiary hospitals suffer from antibiotic shortages – something that should never happen in a developed country.
  • A major revamp and overhaul is needed by the Cabinet and the ministry. I hope that the Malaysian government will not turn a deaf ear to the cries of the people. Stop using the excuse of budget cuts; investigate claims of over-inflated contracts and kickbacks to suppliers instead.
  • The salary scheme of civil servants (not only doctors) needs revision, for nurses, teachers, firemen, policemen and so many others. Do away with superfluous administrative positions that are merely for pushing papers. Streamline the civil service to enable the increment of the salary of civil servants.
“Kalau doctor tak puas hati, doctor boleh quit” – Those were the shocking words spoken through the phone from a clerical staff at the Ministry of Health office, Putrajaya, in response to a question from a junior doctor regarding the status of their position. Hopefully that does not represent the views of the ministry as a whole but government doctors have been receiving this kind of treatment in recent years.
We need to remove such attitudes. The government may have changed but if attitudes (and the people that carry it) are still there, nothing will improve.
There is much to be done: remove lazy administrators and appoint those who are truly capable. Leaders should not head more than one council or committee as this will result in diluted attention and ineffective management.
  • Faith in the government and ministry leaders must be restored before we lose more Malaysians to other countries.
A significant number of junior doctors have left and many more are planning to do so in search of a better life. Unsurprisingly, senior doctors are unwilling to come back to this mess. We are losing human resource at an alarming rate whilst comforting ourselves with news articles of “Malaysian-born wins award” in some foreign land.
“Talent retaining” programs are a waste of resources and unnecessary. Simply recognise and reward hard work, and doctors will stop leaving the country.
The critical service incentive allowance issue is not about junior doctors being overworked and underpaid. It is about how the government has failed the general public and the entire healthcare workforce of Malaysia.
Please reflect and revise – or let yourselves be replaced.
Dr Timothy Cheng is an FMT reader.

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