PETALING JAYA: As Covid-19 cases continue to surge, a nationwide protest is set to take place on Monday (July 26), where government medical contract workers, including doctors at public hospitals across the country will go on strike.
The move, led by a group of contract doctors called "Hartal Doktor Kontrak", was jointly announced by Dr Umar Baraka, Dr Khairul Fahmi Razali and Dr Mohamed Yunus Hassan in a live press conference Saturday (July 24).
According to Dr Umar, a major walkout involving contract doctors will take place beginning 11am on July 26, which he claimed will involve contract doctors from major hospitals nationwide, particularly Selangor.
"We will pass over (shifts) to our permanent colleagues and we will go home en masse. We will show that our numbers are huge," said Dr Umar.
However, Dr Umar said if there aren't enough staff members or if there is an emergency situation, then these contract workers must return to work immediately.
"If patients are not stable, we will return to work. We will show that we are really concerned over this issue and many of us are the backbone of frontliners during this pandemic.
"We represent 23,000 frontliners. If we are not treated fairly, it will be a problem," he said.
At the same time, Dr Umar also said the group's survey estimated that between 4,000 to 5,000 contract medical officers would go on strike on Monday at hospitals across the country.
"Many of us are burnt out and we must show the government that it must do something," he added.
Dr Umar argued that this was not an issue affecting only contract doctors, but Malaysians as a whole.
"If doctors are not given the opportunity to advance in the field they wish to specialise in, then we will be short of specialists and our public healthcare system will be unsustainable," he said.
Meanwhile, earlier Saturday, a statement by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) also raised the alarm of a lack of human resources in the public healthcare system, saying that it is evident in the rise of burnout cases among healthcare professionals.
MMA has also called for the government to come up with a better solution to the contract doctors issue, saying that it had made a variety of cost-effective suggestions in the past, but was met with a lack of meaningful engagement.
However, MMA president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy thanked the government for offering contract workers a two-year contract extension, but urged for a long-term solution.
He said the two year contract extension is welcomed as a short-term measure, but it is not a solution to the ongoing problem.
On Friday (July 23), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the government agreed to provide contract medical officers, dentists and pharmacists career opportunities on par with permanent medical officers.
Muhyiddin also announced that the Cabinet decided to allow contract officers other benefits such as fully paid study leave, but did not address the group's demand for permanent positions for all government contract workers at present.
The government, in response to the group's demands, offered to extend their contracts to a minimum of four years.
Dr Umar stressed that they are merely practicing their freedom of speech and said contract doctors who are participating in the strike next Monday (July 26) may seek help from the group's legal aid team if there is a need to.
"We believe that we have our rights and nothing is above the Constitution and the law," he added.
Earlier, Dr Umar also described Muhyiddin's announcement as nothing new, pointing out that they were promised the same by the previous government five years ago.
"Muhyiddin's announcement is a press statement; it isn't a circular with a stamp and signature. As long as there isn't a stamp and signature, we will not believe it."
Dr Umar also criticised a recent meeting held between the Health Ministry and the MMA, saying that they weren't invited to give their views.
"We respect the MMA's efforts but they are too slow. Maybe some of them have permanent positions, that's why," he added.
Dr Umar said the group's struggles will not end after its planned nationwide strike next Monday.