Four months after Malaysia’s contract doctors went on strike, the government is still falling short of guaranteeing them job security and decent workplace benefits.
Malaysian doctors working as hard as their full-time counterparts while still on contract are planning to go on another strike next month in response to the government’s seemingly inadequate response to their demands, namely the chance to become full-time doctors so that they can receive pension and overtime pay.
“Apparently, the government does not think contract doctors’ issues are serious even though it will jeopardize the nation’s health in the long run,” a statement by the Hartal Doktor Kontrak (Contract Doctors on Strike) group, or HDK, said yesterday. Since early this year, the group has been advocating for the rights of young doctors to obtain permanent positions in government hospitals.
The government announced Friday its plans to further extend the contracts of roughly half of the affected doctors by two years, which drew criticism for being a “waste of time” since it would not completely solve the problem.
The contracts of 10,000 trainee-slash-contract doctors might be extended by two more years, according to last week’s federal budget proposal. There was no budget detailed for the hiring of more full-time doctors.
More than 23,000 doctors in Malaysia are currently employed under contract before they go on to compete for permanent roles in government hospitals, which are usually limited, or turn to the private sector. With the lack of full-time roles for doctors in government hospitals, many have been stuck in a career limbo, where they are still considered to be trainee or contract doctors despite performing the same duties as that of a full-timer. That includes working shifts that go on for longer than 24 hours.
“Contract doctors have been fighting COVID-19 for two years, yet our sacrifices go unappreciated,” the same statement by HDK added.
More than 8,000 doctors went on strike on July 26 at various hospitals, including the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital and the Shah Alam Hospital. They left their jobs for about an hour and marched together at hospital carparks or outside entrances.