BY UMSU PRESS
Doctors and Challenges since the Pandemic
The issue regarding doctors since the pandemic has either been in circulation of them being overworked or putting themselves in harms’ way in order to save lives. This is seen in the rate of deaths amongst doctors increasing worldwide. In India alone, after the second COVID-19 wave hit, around 789 doctors had succumbed to COVID-19 infections and had perished in line of duty. Hence, it can be seen that doctors have been exhaustively burned out due to their vital role in society especially after the pandemic had hit. The same goes for housemen who are not exempted from these challenges and burdens given that they too have to put themselves in jeopardy to perform their duties. This depressive situation unfortunately includes our very own Malaysian doctors and housemen but with an additional burden for them to bear on their shoulders in regards to job security which simply doesn’t seem right.
How the Contract System came about in Malaysia
The similar situation had also transpired in Malaysia and is yet to cease or be at ease given that the number of cases range around 4 digits. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, young doctors or soon to be doctors not only have to be alert of their health but also are not guaranteed a permanent job position due to the contract system brought in the year 2016. This system was introduced to curb the glut of doctors or medical graduates which was seen as a problem back then. The change of this employment system towards doctors was and is still held to be valid by law under Section 42 of the Medical Act 1971 (Act 50). The justification was that such change in the employment system was held to be a way to decrease the government's burden of absorbing medical staff which was excessive and also deemed beneficial to doctors as they would be able to move to private sectors if they intended to. Though it seemed like a solution back then, the situation now disagrees especially after the duration of years of doctors not being absorbed into government medical sectors and the excessive workload that depicted lack of manpower since the pandemic.
Issues regarding the Contract System
Ever since the young doctors of Malaysia had displayed dissatisfaction with the contract system they were subjected to, it became a must to see why this system is being pointed out as a flaw and what had caused such dissatisfaction amongst our medical staff of Malaysia.
The first prominent issue in regards to the contract system doctors are subjected to after two years would be the vast difference in salary between a doctor that has been permanently employed and those under contract. This is one of the causes that clearly triggered doctors to take their discontent to the streets given that they will be subjected to the same workload yet they don’t get paid the same wages.
The contract system stretches beyond just pay, as it also acts as an unfair barrier by prohibiting housemen to pursue specialization in the medical field. This is an additional concern that rendered the contract system towards doctors to be oppressive especially for those who intend to do specialization
iii) Job security
As mentioned in the introduction, job security is the additional burden that Malaysian housemen will need to bear. With the contract system not rendering a guaranteed seat for doctors to have a secured job, there may come a situation where some doctors will be unemployed as soon as their service or aid in assisting in the pandemic situation comes to a halt.
These factors with no doubt would render anyone in any field to be furious, what more those in the medical field who are needed more than ever since the outbreak of COVID-19 till now. Even if it is proclaimed to be endemic there are still a sufficient number of people who are in need of aid due to ailments and doctors are still present putting their backs into it but with the additional problem of being under a contract.
The Relevance of the Contract System
The contract system can no longer be said to be necessary not just based on the unfair manner or policy it has been operating on, but also due to Malaysia having experienced what is seen as a shortage of manpower within the medical field during the spike in COVID-19 cases leading doctors to be overworked. One of the root causes which came to no surprise was the existing contract system that has refused to absorb doctors for the past 5 years which is why one of the many solutions to overcome lack of manpower involved negotiations between the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the government to render permanent positions to medical officers. This clearly illustrates that the maintenance of the contractual system currently is no longer relevant to the position of the medical field in Malaysia yet it still persists. Clearly maintaining this obsolete employment system after witnessing how limited manpower was during the pandemic and how this situation is still persistent even when the government claims we are in the face of an endemic shows that there is a dire need for change.
Consequences of Maintaining the Contract System
It cannot be denied that having a system that is lopsided towards the interests of young doctors or housemen will not prolong freedom from any form of consequences. It has been pointed out that many will not allow themselves to be placed in a situation of uncertainty for too long and will start searching for greener pastures. Hence many young doctors may start to migrate to other countries which offer permanent job opportunities and this doesn’t revolve around myths given that there is always a demand for professionals, more those from the medical field which is what many nations are in need of today. This will be unfortunate for Malaysia given that if this situation emerges, it will lead to a brain drain in the medical sector of our country with professional and young doctors moving out for the sake of job security.
A Dire need for Change in the Employment System
It will come to very little surprise if young doctors take to the streets again in the future to display their dissatisfaction with the contract system. It is high time for a change in the employment system of doctors. The fact that there has been a lack of manpower since the pandemic but the argument on financial burden on the government’s end makes it hard to not mention poor financial management in resources as there is no other way to see it.
Adding insult to injury would be suggestions of racial based choosing of who ought to be rendered a permanent job which was rejected by the (MMA). It would be atrocious if doctors who have been blind to skin color during the pandemic in efforts to serve and save lives end up being discriminated against for the sake of job opportunity.
In short, allowing the issue of contract doctors to prolong in the medical field will only impact society towards the end, as the essential need and dependence of the medical field is ever growing and having a system that creates a curb towards such growth when there is a need for it in these times would be detrimental even if it is for financial reasons on the government’s end.
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2021
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