by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE government needs to provide more permanent positions in the medical line to resolve the severe understaffing problem within the sector.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said more permanent posts for medical officers must be created immediately to ensure adequate manpower in the fight against Covid-19 and future pandemics on top of the routine healthcare services.
“The pandemic has underscored the severe understaffing issue in our workforce as doctors are forced to be placed on an increased number of calls. This shortage of doctors exists at both the specialist and medical officer levels.
“Yet, only a small proportion of contract medical officers have been offered permanent positions in the government service, while the remaining doctors are left hanging,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Subramaniam added that medical officers who are not given a permanent post should be offered contracts with a longer period of at least 10 years to allow career progression and specialisation.
“MMA hopes the government will soon provide more details if the additional 3,500 healthcare personnel under the Permai stimulus package refer to permanent positions or contract positions, and if there are any positions being created for doctors,” he said.
Under the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (Permai) announced earlier this week, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said 3,500 medical and health officers will be recruited this year in addition to the 8,000 officers employed by the Ministry of Health in 2020.
Meanwhile, the safety and health of clinical staff should also be prioritised through providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) at each medical centre, said Dr Subramaniam.
“The ministry’s stock of high-grade and quality PPE should be closely monitored to ensure a constant and adequate supply as daily utilisation increases with the worsening pandemic situation.
“We cannot afford to allow our medical personnel to go into the battlefield without their shields against the virus. One infected personnel equates to one less staff and one more patient,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam added that other than physical health, it is pertinent to provide psychological and mental health support for the medical officers to enable them to continue serving the country.
“The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support hotline had proven invaluable during the first wave of Covid-19, and we strongly suggest that the government look into providing more resources with similar initiatives to ensure our healthcare staff and patients are looked after,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam said while the government is recognising the need to boost Malaysia’s healthcare system, it is important to not overlook the longstanding issues that have been affecting the government healthcare workforce.