Contract pharmacists threaten walkout if not given consideration

PETALING JAYA: Contract pharmacists have urged the government to do away with the interview procedure for permanent positions, adding that they will stage a walkout if their absorption into the civil service is not given enough importance.

A spokesman for the Hartal Contract Pharmacists group also questioned the lower quota for permanent positions for pharmacists compared to doctors.

“If we are still being discriminated against and not given due importance when it comes to permanent jobs, I think we will stage a walkout, but before that, we are requesting that the Health Ministry (MOH) give us permanent jobs right away rather than conduct interviews again and again,” he said while speaking on condition of anonymity.

He questioned if a 15-minute interview could do justice to their performance on the job for the past seven years.

“It is a waste of the interviewer’s time as well, because we have been working for six to seven years in MOH. Do we still need to be interviewed?” he asked.

Instead of an interview, he claims that bosses and superiors will be able to give a proper evaluation of a candidate’s performance and whether they would qualify for a permanent job.

He claimed that there are only some 86 pharmacists from the 2016/2017 batch who have remained with the ministry due to their loyalty.

The movement was formed on Jan 21, 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 claimed.

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

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said on Jan 6 that a total of 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 would be for dentists, and 316 would be for pharmacists.

Commenting on this, the spokesman said the composition of permanent posts for pharmacists was only 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 the late distribution of medicines, but the issue is that we lack the manpower,” he said.

The movement, which started with about 100 members, has gained traction on social media.

The movement comes after the Hartal Doktor Kontrak was formed in 2021. Hartal Doktor Kontrak even went on to stage a nationwide walkout in July 2021 in protest of the contract system.

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