Appointment of doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Malaysia on contract basis, owing to constraints on permanent positions has its pros and cons, says Dr Koh Kah Chai, honorary general secretary of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
While the pros to this move is that these medical practitioners will be gainfully employed and get prerequisite training, however the Government is worried about their status of employment once the contract ends.
This move was announced by the Prime Minister during Budget 2017, with plans to come to effect to December. It is expected to benefit 2,600 doctors, who are now unable to undergo housemanship due to lack of permanent positions in hospitals.
Calling this an “ad hoc measure,” Dr Steven Chow, president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia expressed concern over what happens at the end of their contracts and added, “There will still be a logjam of doctors. If you increase the output of doctors, you should have made arrangements to increase the number of housemen and medical officer posts as well.”
Likewise, the creation of a new civil service pay grade – 56, to be placed between grade 54 and Jusa C – is only a temporary measure in its objective of preventing medical and dental specialists from leaving Government service and addressing the delays in their promotion. Dr Koh believes this is a stop-gap measure and some feel it will delay promotion of Jusa C, The Star Malaysia reports.
The extra grade would mean doctors would take longer time to reach the highest pay grades, which would in turn affect their pensions.
Opining on the Government’s idea of cooperating with the private sector to run non-profit charitable hospitals Dr Koh said, “While it is a noble idea, in the absence of details of the financing mechanism, we can’t really comment on the buy-in from the private sector. It appears to be a proposal of cost-sharing in the provision of healthcare to the rakyat.”
So what will happen to doctors once the 2017 contract ends? Will they be able to find permanent positions in the private sector? How does the Malaysian government overcome the crisis of oversupply of doctors? DAP MP Teresa Kok questioned the government, if considerable thought has been given to the future of medical graduates who accept its offer for contract employment under Budget 2017.
She further urged the Health Minister to give a clear and honest picture about doctors becoming jobless, under the contract scheme, rather than giving false impression of jobs still existing for many of them in the private sector.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was quoted by the Malay Mail Online, “The contract method provides flexibility to absorb the graduates as their waiting period will be reduced. At the same time, they can receive adequate training. It is also easier for Public Service Department (PSD) to create contract positions.”
While there were legal requirements for the ministry to provide training for doctors for at least two years, and dentist and pharmacists for at least one year. Through the contract method, doctors could undergo housemanship for four years, while dentists and pharmacists should be in training for three years.
The issue of oversupply of doctors has been raised several years ago by MMA and Malaysian Medical Council and still new ones are being churned out annually.