Budget 2021: Position of junior healthcare workers not addressed, says MMA

PETALING JAYA: The RM1bil allocation to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is heartening, but it's disappointing that the long-standing issue regarding permanent and contract positions for junior healthcare workers was not addressed in the Budget, says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

Its president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy (pic) said the announcement of further contract positions for nursing and other healthcare support staff did not bode well for the welfare of the staff.

Nonetheless it was important to ensure that the positions were made available quickly, he said.

Dr Subramaniam added that the job opportunities under the government's Short Term Employment Programme lacked clarity as to who exactly would benefit or if there would be new positions for existing contract staff.

"We would have expected that seeing the need for enhanced public healthcare to deal with the pandemic, there would be allocations for increased healthcare positions.

"Disappointingly, we don’t see any major allocations for the much-needed boost in our healthcare workforce.

"We hope that once the finer details are released that the government will address these urgent issues," he said in a statement Friday (Nov 6).

Dr Subramaniam added that general practitioners (GPs) were also forgotten as calls for tax breaks and incentives to be extended to the 7,000 GPs in the pandemic fight were not heeded.

"Overall, we agree that the budget is focused on rejuvenating the economy, but to the medical profession, it does seem that despite the applause given to the frontliners, more could be done to address the needs of our fraternity.

"It is hoped that the government will be clearer on the employment of new doctors in permanent positions.

"The GPs are also going through a tough time during this period. They should be supported by allowing tax relief from indemnity insurance," he said.

He said the RM600 bonus for all civil servants, including the frontliners, as well as the RM500 one-off payment for almost 100,000 frontliners were welcomed, but said there would be disparities as many healthcare workers contributing in the battle against Covid-19 were left out as they might not fulfil the strict criteria set by the government.

Apart from the RM1bil allocation, Dr Subramaniam said the RM90mil allocation to ensure that the long-awaited pneumococcal vaccination programme was also welcomed.

He added that the number of tax relief initiatives to promote preventive health, the attention given to mental health as well as the extension of the My Salam programme were also laudable.

Meanwhile, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said it was encouraging that the government prioritised funding vaccine production.

“The government has given a lot of attention to vaccine research and manufacturing in Malaysia, ” he said.

He added that it was also good that there was a RM35mil allocation to help boost medical tourism in the country once the borders were open.

However, he said a special budget should be set aside for non-Covid-19 public hospital patients who were waiting for treatment for them to be transferred to private hospitals instead.

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