JOHOR BARU: All parties should strive towards middle ground over the issue of contract doctors going on strike as the country is facing a severe health emergency, says Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
The Umno vice-president said the strike, which is expected to take place on Monday (July 26), could critically impact the smooth running of the country's healthcare system.
"I urge all parties to immediately find a middle ground. The government should show deep empathy for the insistence of these young medical officers.
"Their claims on issues such as salaries, permanent recruitment, allowances, opportunities to undertake specialist programmes as well as other benefits are matters that are demanded clearly, consistently and rationally," he said in a statement on Sunday (July 25).
The former Johor mentri besar added that the government's offer in response to the doctors' demands should also be considered.
"The government's offer announced by the prime minister a few days ago should also be given space to be discussed and considered.
"If it is not sufficient, then it should be the basis for further negotiations. Certainly not all demands can be met and not all government offers should be rejected as such.
"The country is facing a severe health emergency. This problem should not be allowed to drag on," he said.
He added that the strike should be allowed to take place to honour the doctors' freedom of speech.
"But both parties must then return to the negotiating table immediately.
"I call on the government to come up with a comprehensive solution plan, taking into account the long-term benefits as well as the needs of the overall health system.
"Doctors and medical practitioners are the frontline fighters of the country. They should be treated and valued appropriately and fairly. But more important is the national interest. Balancing all this, we leave it to the wisdom of the government and this group of young doctors," he said.
It was reported that a nationwide protest is set to take place on Monday 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 on Saturday (July 24).
On Friday (July 23), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the government had 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.
The government, in response to the group's demands, offered to extend their contracts to a maximum of four years.
However, 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.