PETALING JAYA: Mogok Doktor Malaysia, the movement which has threatened a nationwide strike, has now claimed that it is expecting some 3,000 contract doctors to leave the Health Ministry in the coming days and not necessarily on April 1.
"(Some) 3,000 might resign within that month, not necessarily on the first day of April, because most of them are currently waiting for the final results of their interview for a permanent post which was held one week ago," a spokesperson for the group told The Star.
In a social media post on March 28, the group had encouraged doctors who wanted to quit to resign en masse on April 1.
The group was asked how many doctors had actually heed its call for mass resignations.
As for the planned strike from April 3 to April 5, the group further claimed that leaves had been frozen at some hospitals for the said dates.
Organisers had asked doctors to take emergency or medical leave on April 3-5 as a sign of protest, adding that they did not encourage demonstrations or flashmobs.
A representative of the group, who declined to be named, told The Star on March 28 that it had decided to proceed with the strike peacefully by taking emergency leave or medical leave "because demonstration or walkouts will cause harm."
"We have confirmed that an estimated 8,000 out of some 20,000 contract medical officers (MOs) will participate in this strike or mass resignation event," the representative said when contacted.
"(Some) 3,000 contract MOs will resign on April 1, while the rest will not be present to work from April 3-5," the representative said.
The group’s demands include the absorption of all contract MOs into permanent positions without any conditions or interviews; basic salary increments; higher on-call rates; a resolution to the shortage of specialists, MOs and house officers; and an automatic reduction in the compulsory service term for medical officers to three years.
It was also calling for a reduction in on-call and work hours for MOs and house officers, while on-call hours should not exceed six times a month, and working hours needed to be capped at 60 hours a week.
The Instagram handle of Mogok Doktor Malaysia has since garnered 13,900 followers.
In a statement on March 30, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai urged the group to call off its plans to go on strike and refrain from any move that might cause worry and anxiety among the public.
"We refer to the social media posts by the #MOGOKDOKTORKONTRAK group telling Malaysians not to go to public health care facilities from April 3 to 5 because of a planned strike by this group of contract doctors," he said.
"A strike would cause major inconveniences for the sick, injured and the elderly who may be relying on public health care.
"We wish to remind the doctors group of the oath they took to 'first do no harm' when they were sworn in as doctors.
"Their friends and family who rely on public healthcare can also be affected if they were to proceed with the strike and so we hope they make the wise decision of not proceeding with the strike," he added.
He also urged the group to immediately stop motivating mass resignations as it could have serious consequences.
"Not only can it cripple individual departments, but by extension, it can also cause a major crisis in the entire healthcare system. Health care delivery can be compromised and may even result in loss of lives," he said.
"The MMA takes a serious view of this and hopes the group will not resort to such actions. If anyone plans to resign, it should be done responsibly with proper notice given.
"We once again wish to state that the MMA does not condone a strike as a means to pressure the government into resolving the issues of contract doctors," he added.
He said the association had been engaging with the government on matters related to the profession and would continue to engage with on the various issues to bring about the needed improvements to the system.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said on March 30 that the formation of a health reforms commission would address the issues raised by the doctors, adding that she "took note" of their complaints.
Previously, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had also said a strike was not the best solution to handle issues related to the medical profession or any other profession.
Meanwhile, Hartal Doktor Kontrak said five days ago that the group and its allies were not associated with the strike.
"It has come to our attention that there are some movements to call for nationwide strike among doctors on such a mentioned date," it said in a Facebook post in response to Mogok Doktor Malaysia’s calls for strike.
"On behalf of Hartal Doktor Kontrak, we would like to inform you that this is not coming from us or our allies, and until now, multiple discussions and efforts have been done with collaboration of multiple parties, and rest assured, no such move is planned for now," it added.