A group of government contract doctors will proceed with a strike on July 26 as Putrajaya has yet to offer a resolution to their woes.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba had on July 12 said a resolution will be announced that week. He had also informed the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) of this.
However, the cabinet meeting on July 14 passed without any announcement.
The contract doctors lobbying for a resolution operate under the Hartal Doktor Kontrak collective to avoid disclosing their individual names for fear of government reprisal.
The Hartal Doktor Kontrak, in a letter to the directors of hospitals as well as state and district health departments, informed them that they will proceed with the strike.
“The issue of contract doctors is not only about them but is intertwined with the welfare of Malaysians.
“If contract doctors follow the health minister’s advice and move to university hospitals or the private sector, it will impact the level of the (public) healthcare service in the country,” it said.
A spokesman for the group said doctors will stage a walkout during work as a sign of protest.
“We will proceed with a massive walkout as a symbol to show that we want our voices to be heard,” he was quoted as saying.
However, he did not reveal how many doctors from the Minister of Health’s (MoH) facilities will be part of the strike.
On being at risk of losing the goodwill of the public considering that Covid-19 care is the utmost priority now, the spokesman said: “I think the public has to understand it is now or never for us and the healthcare (system).”
The group pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the lack of healthcare personnel to maintain the healthcare system.
“They have been squeezed to their last drop and many are burnt out…but they still abide by the ministry’s decision to soldier on in the war (against Covid-19),” it added.
Government junior contract doctors face an uncertain future after the end of their five-year training at government hospitals.
There is a lack of permanent positions at public hospitals due to the government’s budgetary constraints.
As a result, many of them have to move to the private sector or continue their specialist training abroad.
The letter asked hospitals to seek a replacement for Hartal Doktor Kontrak members during the one-day strike.
The strike has been controversial as it comes at a time when the public healthcare system is under tremendous strain due to the pandemic.
Organisations such as the MMA are supportive of their cause but stopped short of backing a strike.
The contract doctors who have been toiling for more than a year against the pandemic see little prospect for their future. Some have also resigned from service.
The government had offered small concessions, including some permanent placements for contract doctors from the May 2017 intake and a one-off one-year contract extension to those from the December 2016 intake.
However, the doctors fear that the one-off extension is only to deal with Covid-19, and they will be cast aside after the pandemic is over.
To date, the government has yet to announce a comprehensive resolution.
“We urge everyone to support us in sending a clear message to the government through this strike.
“Help us in our struggle for our rights and that of all Malaysians,” the Hartal Doktor Kontrak secretariat said in its letter.