Despite announcement of more benefits contract doctors’ strike will go on

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Unhappy with Putrajaya’s offer, up to 5,000 doctors expected to go on strike on Monday.

Members of the #HartalDoktorKontrak movement today said their planned July 26 strike will proceed, after expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s announcement of improved benefits and contract extensions yesterday.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to appoint medical officers, dental officers and pharmacists by contract for a period of two years once they have completed their compulsory service to ensure continuity of service and preparation for pursuing specialist studies.

The Cabinet also agreed to extend the contractual appointment to a maximum of four years for medical officers and dental officers who are pursuing specialisation studies during the contract period of the first two years.

“Offering us more years of contract is not a solution, it’s a sugar-coating statement to shut us up. We know well how the system works. We are not buying it. Nobody wise enough will accept it.

“They don’t even know how the system works, or maybe don’t even bother to think thoroughly about it because the problem is not theirs.

“Give us clear planning and a clear solution for our careers. Can we afford to lose more and more people now? The hartal is definitely going on. Two days to Hartal!” the group said in a statement.

The Hartal Doktor Kontrak group is pushing for permanent posting for contract medical officers (MO).

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has also expressed similar sentiments, saying the contract extension for medical officers, dental officers, and pharmacists is not a long-term solution to the problem.

MMA said while it welcomed the decision, a holistic, long-term, and sustainable solution is still needed.

The Cabinet decision yesterday came ahead of a planned hartal, or strike, by contract doctors on July 26 under #HartalDoktorKontrak should their demands — which also include promoting all contract doctors to permanent posts and making the criteria for promotion transparent — be ignored.

Healthcare workers and MMA have also taken part in the Code Black and Black Monday campaigns to show solidarity with the contract doctors’ plight.

Since the pandemic began, contract doctors’ issues have become hotly debated within the medical profession.

It was reported that over 23,000 contract doctors in government service who graduated since December 2016 have not been automatically absorbed permanently like in the past.

The movement first gained considerable traction on Twitter through the hashtag #HartalDoktorKontrak.

Some 4,000 to 5,000 doctors nationwide are expected to take part in the strike on July 26, a representative of the Hartal Doktor Kontrak group said today.

Dr Umar Baraka said doctors from Sungai Buloh hospital, one of the main treatment centres for Covid-19 patients, will also take part in the strike.

This will throw the public healthcare system into chaos as currently there are more than 145,000 active Covid-19 patients.

“We have no choice. We will go ahead with the strike on July 26 in all health facilities nationwide. We did a survey and found that around 4,000 to 5,000 doctors will take part in the strike,” said Dr Umar, who was accompanied by some 20 doctors in an online press conference held via Google Meet.

“It (the strike) will take place in Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Kedah, Hospital Taiping and Ipoh, Hospital Sultanah Aminah and Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor and Sungai Buloh Hospital among others,” the representative said.