Govt needs to address human resources issues in fight against Covid-19 and beyond, says MMA

PETALING JAYA: The government needs to address the issue of human resources in its fight against Covid-19 and beyond, says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

President Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam (pic) said these issues, if left to fester, will affect the standard of healthcare in the country over time.

Among the issues raised include permanent positions and contract extensions, safeguarding the health of all clinical staff, welfare and support for healthcare workers, as well as healthcare workers’ annual leave.

Dr Subramaniam said the pandemic has highlighted severe understaffing in the medical workforce, with many doctors forced to be placed on an increased number of calls compared to normal days.

However, only a small proportion of contract medical officers have been offered permanent positions in government service, with the fate of the remaining doctors left hanging and unknown.

“More permanent posts for medical officers need to be created immediately to ensure adequate manpower to continue the fight against Covid-19 and future pandemics, on top of routine healthcare services.

“The remainder of medical officers not given permanent posts must be offered an extended contract of at least one year, in order to allow them to specialise and progress further, ” he said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 20).

MMA hopes the government will soon provide more details on the additional recruitment of 3,500 healthcare personnel, announced under the Permai assistance package, whether they comprise permanent or contract positions, and if there are any positions being created for doctors.

He also said the Health Ministry’s stock of high-grade, quality personal protective equipment (PPE) should be closely monitored, to ensure constant and adequate supply even as daily utilisation increases with the worsening pandemic situation.

Other than physical health, Dr Subramaniam said the psychological and mental health of healthcare workers is also pivotal to ensure they can continue to serve at their best.

“The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) hotline had proven invaluable during the first wave of Covid-19, and we strongly suggest that the Ministry look into providing more resources into similar initiatives, ” he added.

Apart from that, Dr Subramaniam said Covid-19 allowances must also be extended to all staff exposed to the clinical environment.

“In terms of financial remuneration, MMA takes the stand that our doctors' Critical Allowance should be continued indefinitely without further review.

Dr Subramaniam also said healthcare workers have excess leave that they were unable to utilise fully, due to the pandemic.

“As such, healthcare workers have excess leave that they were unable to utilise fully in 2020, and this looks likely to recur in 2021 as well.

“This leave is forfeited if not utilised after a certain period.

“As such, we ask that the government guarantee allowing the unused leave of healthcare workers to be carried forward to be used at a time when the pandemic is manageable, ” he said.

Dr Subramaniam said MMA has also written about these matters officially to PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

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