WHAT is Datuk Seri Najib Razak up to now? Why is he trying to play saint in the case of contract doctors threatening to go on a nationwide protest tomorrow (Monday, July 26)?
Remember, Najib was the one who introduced this contract doctor scheme during his premiership in 2016 under the then Barisan Nasional-led government’s Transformasi Perkhidmatan Awam (Public Service Transformation).
Due to acute shortage of doctors, the BN government then decided to appoint the first batch of medical, dentistry and pharmaceutical graduates on a contract basis, the latest by December 2016.
My son is in the civil service and as a Health Ministry pensioner, I always keep myself abreast of all things as far as the ministry and the government are concerned. Let me provide you with some insights on this contract doctor thing.
Reading through Najib’s latest Facebook post on contract doctors where he appealed to them not to proceed with their protest plan, this former BN president stated the protest should not go on during this Covid-19-induced time as the rakyat should not become the victims over the present Perikatan Nasional government’s misdeeds or weaknesses.
Days ago, Najib told Putrajaya via his FB to give big bonuses at the end of their contracts if it cannot afford to offer permanent positions to all of them. Najib also said the issue involving contract doctors needed to be resolved quickly, adding that the government’s silence would only make matters worse.
“Don’t be stingy with doctors and the needs of the public health sector where Malaysia is going through this major health crisis. Now is not the time to waste time, negotiating,” - these words coming from this man who introduced the contract-doctor scheme but left the faith of these doctors dangling by a thread, unresolved until today.
Of course, we can always expect him to continue blaming PN for everything under the sky but Najib must not be let off the hook over the trouble he has caused to some 20,000 contract doctors in the country.
A Health Ministry circular dated Dec 15, 2016 (you can find it on Google), from its then secretary-general to all state Health directors and public hospital directors, stated the commencement of the scheme, adding that the government agreed for them to be hired as contract staff on Oct 21, 2016.
It also said with their appointments, these graduates would be given the chance to undergo training and/or compulsory service (khidmat wajib) and later, could choose to go on working either with the Health Ministry or otherwise.
The circular also stated in detail the terms of the contract of service, emoluments, leave, etc.
But there was no mention at all in the circular of anything along this line – that they would be absorbed into the civil service once they have served their terms. None.
Oh yes, before I forget, this group of contract doctors planned the walkout on Monday as part of their ongoing protest to get better deals from the government, including permanent placements.
Three representatives of the group – the Hartal Doctor Kontrak – claimed the contract offer made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently for contract doctors upon the completion of their compulsory service period, did not address the actual problems they face.
The offer, they said, was actually a sweetener as it did not resolve the main problem, which is for them to be given a permanent position, including as specialists.
From newspaper reports, the Cabinet recently agreed to extend the contract of all contract medical officers, dental officers and pharmaceutical officers for a maximum of four years upon completion of their mandatory service as part of the immediate actions to address their concerns.
Muhyiddin said this move would ensure continuity of service and also as a preparation for young doctors to pursue specialist training.
This decision only proves that the PN government fully understands the demands of this group and it also appreciates and is aware that their contribution and role as frontliners is crucial in providing the best health services to the people amid these difficult, trying times.
The Cabinet also understands the concerns and problems faced by these officers in regards to the equivalence of their career paths, as mentioned by the Prime Minister who also said he would ensure an equal and fair career path for them – that they would be managed equally as permanent officers and made eligible for fully-paid study leave and scholarships, or equivalent, as well as the Federal Training Prize.
The Prime Minister also said other solutions approved were to improve the facilities and benefits for them, such as special duty medical leave, tuberculosis leave and travel allowance to return to their region of origin.
And all these decisions, he said, would give the government the opportunity to finalise the ongoing study on the reforms of Malaysia’s healthcare system, review the existing provisions in the Medical Act 1971 and formulate the long-term road map for medical services.
Najib should have considered all the details in the appointments of these contract doctors before introducing such a scheme. He decided on it and he should be responsible for it. Now, he has the cheek to blame the present government, trying to play saint in defence of the group – things which he should have thought of and decided upon during his time. There was no mention at all about permanent placements in the circular!
In helping to resolve the issues, Muhyiddin recently engaged the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) through a virtual meeting.
The MMA was reported as saying that Muhyiddin made it clear during the meeting that due to the pandemic, there were currently limitations in providing a permanent solution to the issue at this time.
He, however, expressed his strong commitment to address these issues and vowed that he would personally monitor the progress.
This group, whatever they name themselves, should be fair to Muhyiddin for what he has done to put an end to their problems, not threaten to hold protests during this bad, challenging time.
At least he has made genuine efforts to fix the system for contract doctors so that they do not lose out.
SYUKRI MOHAMAD AROP