Contract extension, equal opportunities, perks for docs

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Just days ahead of a planned nationwide strike by contract government doctors over alleged unfair treatment, Putrajaya yesterday announced that it will provide them career path opportunities at par with their permanent colleagues.

“As an immediate resolution, the cabinet agreed that all contracted medical officers, dentists, and pharmacists be offered two-year contract term after they conclude their mandatory service. This is to ensure continuity of service and as preparation for them to attain specialisation.

“The cabinet also agreed to extend contractual appointments for a maximum of four years to medical officers and dentists who are accepted to further study in specialisation during their first two-year contract. This is to ensure that the officers can successfully complete their respective specialisation training.

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“The cabinet also understands the concern and issues faced by the contract medical officers, dentists, and pharmacists in regard to their career path. To ensure that these groups get a fair and equal career path, the cabinet agreed that the contract officers are to receive treatment at par with permanent staff. They are to be offered fully-paid study leave and sponsorship, and federal training grant,” said Muhyiddin.

On top of these, he added, the government would improve the benefits that are offered to the contract officers, including entitlement to special duties leave, tuberculosis leave, and fare to visit their hometown.

Meanwhile, the health ministry said the government’s decision to offer a two-year contract of service to contract healthcare workers is an interim solution.

Its secretary-general Mohd Shafiq Abdullah said it would allow those under the contract system to prepare for specialisation and ensure continuity in healthcare service.

He said the ministry would consider other approaches it can take in the next two years to offer more permanent positions.

Shafiq added that the ministry would also review and consider amendments to the Medical Act 1971.

While it welcomed Muhyiddin’s announcement, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said these only amounted to “immediate short-term steps” taken by the government – stressing that such measures are not a “solution to the problem”.

“This pandemic has shown how critical healthcare workers are, and therefore, more positions should be created for permanent posts,” said MMA president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy.

Subramaniam also noted that the current proposal of a contract extension needs to be reviewed as other factors that may delay specialisation should also be taken into account.