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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Ex-MMA chief urges association to speak out more for doctors


Former MMA president Dr John Chew says medical workers need stronger support during ‘these extremely tough times’. (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: A former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president has urged the group to play a bigger role in speaking out for doctors in light of allegations of bullying and sexual harassment faced by housemen and junior doctors.

Dr John Chew said MMA had always strived to improve the work environment by organising Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses and promoting CME, and enhancing cooperation, communication and engagement between management and staff.

“We just have to do more and better,” he told FMT.

Chew, who headed MMA in 2016, noted how the country’s healthcare system was under “profound stress” with Covid-19.

Dr John Chew.

He said the system was also underfunded and overcrowded, and had to deal with issues such as infrastructure failure and staff fatigue.

“These are extremely tough times for healthcare workers now, and more support is needed,” he said.

“If nothing is done urgently, we can only expect things to get worse – even to a point of total collapse.”

His comments come in the wake of the April 17 death of a Penang Hospital houseman, who fell from his apartment just three weeks after being posted to the hospital. Another houseman who quit the same hospital died in December 2020.

Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said an independent task force would be formed to investigate the latest incident and the culture of bullying which housemen and junior doctors had alleged.

Speaking to FMT, several current and former housemen claimed they were overworked, abused and bullied – even by staff nurses. One even claimed that he and other housemen would sometimes have to suffer racial slurs from their MOs.

MMA yesterday responded to criticisms against it over the issue of bullying, after the Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK) group and Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy said it was playing down bullying cases.

In a statement, its president, Dr Koh Kar Chai, said the association had been actively addressing the issue of bullying for years, and that it was “very unfair” to suggest otherwise.

Stating that “the blame game has to stop”, Chew also called on all parties to work together to avoid any further loss of life. - FMT

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