PETALING JAYA: The power structure in hospitals make housemen vulnerable to abuse, with many at hospitals having experienced bullying during their tenure.
A 25-year-old medical graduate said during her attachment, she had seen several instances of housemen being poorly treated by medical officers.
“Once I saw a medical officer hurl a case file at the housemen,” she said, adding that expletives and profanities were commonly used against housemen. “Stupid is a common word they use.”
Older medical officers and specialists practically normalised the use of such abusive language, she said.
A houseman in Penang said false allegations levelled against him for his “mistakes” nearly cost him his medical career.
“I was blackmailed in front of everyone by my own specialist and hurled accusations by consultants, registrars and even nurses for their mistakes.
“I was defenceless even when the incident was documented because the houseman’s documentation would be regarded as false against a medical officer,” he said.
He added that complaints lodged against abusive medical officers were always dismissed and ignored.
“There is a certain medical officer in my hospital that has had complaints lodged against him repeatedly. And, the hospital director disregarded the complaints, saying the medical officer was under a lot of stress.
“A colleague tried to lodge a complaint against another medical officer who harassed her. She was merely told to find witnesses, who were the nurses, but no one dared to come forward,” he said.
Housemen said despite government regulations, they were still expected to clock in more hours than stipulated.
A 28-year-old in a hospital in Klang Valley said she worked six days a week, clocking in about 16 hours a day.
“I have difficulty waking up some days – just at the thought of going to work.
“The long hours make you exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said.
She suffers from sleep deprivation and lack of concentration, and was afraid the long hours would affect the quality of care doctors provide for their patients.
One houseman in a hospital in Penang said the heavy workload led to her falling ill and having a mental breakdown.
“It became ‘normal’ for me to eat at five in the morning and later at 11 in the night.
“There’s no proper lunch break; you just have to find time to eat,” she said, adding that although the housemen worked shifts, they usually had to come early because of the workload.
She said she was now under psychiatric treatment.
“I am contemplating leaving the medical field,” she said, adding that a couple of her friends had already left the profession.