New medical grads see red over incentive cut

  • Nation
  • Friday, 27 Dec 2019

Incoming medical professionals are up in arms over the government’s decision to eliminate the Critical Service Incentive Allowance for new appointments beginning Jan 1.

Many of them are unhappy that the Public Service Department (PSD), which made the announcement, thinks that the public healthcare sector is no longer deemed critical.

“In fact, it is the opposite of what we, as students, were told during our lectures and also by our seniors.

“Through our observations during our practical sessions in the hospital, we could see that medical staff are overworked, ” said Muhamad Danial Muhamad Hamdan, a final year student of the Bachelor of Pharmacy programme at a private university in Kuala Lumpur.

Unlike other professions that are also affected following the announcement, Danial said healthcare practitioners like doctors, pharmacists and nurses depend highly on the public sector to kickstart their career because of the required housemanship and compulsory service.

Describing the move as a step back for Malaysia to provide quality healthcare services, the 22-year-old said future healthcare practitioners might lower their standard and quality for being overworked and underpaid.

“This will also lead to our best doctors, pharmacists, nurses going abroad for better salaries and opportunities, ” he said.

A dentist, who only wanted to be known as Tiong, said he registered with the Malaysia Dental Council a month ago.

The 24-year-old, who is awaiting housemanship placement, said he was upset and worried about his future.

“RM750 is a lot of money and it is about 20% of our salary. Not to mention that the cost of studying dentistry is high and many of us will have to serve our education loan upon graduation.

“With such low pay, where a janitor in Singapore earns more than us, everyone will want to leave the public healthcare sector and go private for better income.

“In the end, the people will be at the losing end because they won’t be getting quality public healthcare, ” he said, adding that any country, regardless of how poor it is, should never cut spending on public healthcare.

“I know our economy is not that good and we are in debt. But healthcare is a right for everyone, ” he said, adding that medical professionals who strive to serve should be treated right.

Tiong noted that many of his friends are upset, especially those studying medicine since they have to serve longer with the government in housemanship and compulsory service.

Another dentist, who only wanted to be known as Leanne, said she had to rethink her decision to stay with the public healthcare sector following the announcement.

“It has been a dream of mine to pursue dentistry and I have always wanted to stay with the government to serve the people. A lower pay will only demotivate and discourage young and budding medical professionals, ” she said.

Nur Athirah Zazali, 20, who is finishing her studies in pharmacy next October, said she would be affected as she must complete one year of housemanship at a government hospital.

“The number of patients is increasing and we need more medical professionals in public healthcare.

“Cutting the allowance certainly is not helping, ” she said.

Another pharmacy student, who only wants to be known as Siti, concurred, saying it was an “injustice to all the future medical professionals”.

Admitting that she was worried, the 22-year-old final year student from a private university in Ipoh said she was concerned the decision would cause a ripple effect in the private sector.

“For now, a freshly graduated pharmacist working in the government sector earns more compared to those working in the private sector.

“If the government can do so, why wouldn’t the private sector follow suit?” she asked, adding that medical personnel deserve better compensation for the effort and energy they put in to serve the public.

For now, Siti said she would continue with her studies after so much effort, sweat and tears.

But she called on aspiring pharmacists to think twice in choosing their career path.

“Even though passion can drive us further, if the system cannot support the effort we’ve put in, it can gradually drain us and worsen the situation, ” she added.

A senior medical officer who only wanted to be known as Dr Arif said medicine was no longer a secure job like it used to.

“I think the challenge for doctors to be in civil service is less worrying compared to the overall situation of declining quality in healthcare and its workers’ skills, morale and motivation.

“In future, we are going to rely on these junior doctors and support staff to treat us.

“What will happen when they feel discouraged to choose medicine?” he asked, adding the situation was further compounded when there were no more permanent positions for medical professionals in civil service.

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