MCA YOUTH urges the police to desist from any further investigations into 12 government contract medical officers on duty at Serdang Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) or any contract doctor who participated in the #HartalDoktorKontrak protest on Monday (July 26).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba had promised in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (July 27) that no disciplinary action will be taken against any doctor.
Announcements made in the Dewan Rakyat by any Cabinet Minister, especially that which deals with public health and health personnel who put their own lives at risk, must be sacrosanct, lest the Health Minister be jabbed again for making another gaffe, or even worse, an empty promise.
In this pandemic, the issue of burnout and unjust treatment is pertinent at hand. Dr Adham’s assurance involves the career and lives of many junior doctors and patients.
Any action by any authority which detracts from the Health Minister’s words will be viewed as a vindictive U-turn by the government. Prior to the walkout, we were also reminded by the reported words of the Inspector-General of Police in The Malaysian Insight that “the police have not received any information that the protest will affect public order".
Too much time taken away from patients doesn’t improve the situation
With news reports that doctors were allegedly grilled by police from 11.45pm to 3.50am on Tuesday night, such a move sniffs of police intimidation and will erode confidence in the police force.
These four hours spent under police questioning would have been better utilised caring for patients, especially when there is a shortage of doctors in government service currently. With the absence of 12 medical officers on duty, the onus is on other doctors on that shift to shoulder double (or more) their workload.
These four hours were way longer than the 20 to 30 minutes the contract medical doctors used to leave their workstations. #HartalDoktorKontrak did not simply abandon their patients. As Harian Metro Online aptly titled their Monday news report, “Memberontak, tetapi pesakit diutamakan (Rebelling but patients prioritised)”, they made sure that there were other doctors to attend to the patients before walking out.
To medical housemen and doctors at Serdang MAEPS or elsewhere, these four hours mean a great deal as their services and physical presence are much needed at the Emergency Ward or at a Covid-19 treatment unit.
For health workers who have completed their shift, these four hours could mean catching up on much-needed rest and sleep loss to recuperate.
To family members, these four hours meant time away from their loved ones when they could have been spent together.
With news reports of government medical officers giving 24-hour notice as they are unable to bear the burnout, the mental burden and physical workload tending to patients having to share oxygen tanks or medical equipment due to insufficient supplies, all the more the police must not proceed with investigations.
We need to show a government and authorities that are caring and empathetic, not punitive. With the pressures stemming from Covid-19, all our health workers need motivation now more than ever.
Any police probe into #HartalDoktorKontrak will also affect the morale of other doctors and health workers who did not join in the walkout.
RYAN HO KWOK XHENG
MCA Youth spokesman