Group says will stage walkout if no permanent positions for contract pharmacists

PETALING JAYA: A spokesman for the Hartal Farmasi movement says the group will stage a walkout if contract pharmacists are not given enough importance when it comes to permanent positions.

"Give us permanent positions without interviews or we will stage a walkout," the spokesman said on Saturday (Jan 21).

ALSO READ: Hartal Farmasi emerges on social media to seek justice for contract pharmacists

“Before that, we are requesting MOH to give us permanent jobs straight away rather than conducting interviews again and again,” the spokesman told The Star on condition of anonymity.

He also questioned how a 15-minute interview could be used as a yardstick to evaluate seven years of service.

The movement was formed on Saturday after pharmacists from the 2016/2017 batch did not get clear cut answers from the ministry and the Public Services Commission (PSC) on why those from the batch were not invited for the next interview session despite being the oldest batch on contract.

The spokesman added that doctors from the 2016 batch had been called for interviews.

“When some of us asked the PSC and the Health Ministry, we were told that we had been given chances twice previously but when they called us for the first time in February 2020, there were vacancies for 30 pharmacists nationwide and they called almost 600 of us (for the interview),” he said.

He went on to add that for the second interview in June 2022, there were 400 vacancies for 1,500 applicants.

He questioned whether the number of permanent positions made available for pharmacists was fair as there were more than 4,000 openings for doctors.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had said on Jan 6 that a total of the 4,914 permanent positions will be available in the Health Ministry in 2023,

She said that 4,263 positions would be for medical officers, 335 openings for dentists and 316 for pharmacists.

Commenting on this, the spokesman said the composition of permanent posts for pharmacists was only at about 8% of the openings for doctors.

“ And when all these doctors get their placements, do they think the understaffed pharmacies can cater to the patients treated by the more than 4,200 doctors?" he asked.

“At the end of the day, patients will complain about us and blame us for being late in giving medicine but the issue is that we lack the manpower,” he said.

He said there is in fact a shortage of pharmacists and the career prospects are also dim as private hospitals sometimes run with one pharmacist while private clinics do not even employ pharmacists to dispense medicines.

He said Hartal Farmasi now has some 100 members and he is confident that more pharmacists will support the movement since the issue did not seem to be given prominence by the Pharmacy Board.

The movement comes in the wake of the Hartal Doktor Kontrak group that was formed in 2021.

The doctors movement even went on to stage a nationwide walkout in July 2021, in protest of the contract system.

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