Stop investigating doctors, say medical groups

Doctors should never be punished for standing up for their welfare

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE 

SEVERAL medical associations and NGOs are calling for the police to stop harassing doctors and healthcare workers who are supporting the “Code Black” and “Black Monday” campaigns.

Malaysian Medics International chairman Dr Ong Siu Ching said the association stood against any police harassment on doctors and requested for their voices to be heard.

She added that the doctors should never be punished for standing up for their welfare, as Malaysians have the right to freedom of speech and expression.

“If we cannot voice our welfare, what is left for our junior doctors?

“Doctors are suffering and feel that they are disposable by the system. They are struggling to survive under harsh circumstances.

“If that is the case, we will see a drastic decline in the number of doctors, further straining the already thinly stretched human resources we have in the healthcare system,” she told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

Ong emphasised that the current contract doctor system does not guarantee anything for junior doctors, and this brings upon much of the despair that many are experiencing right now.

She also noted that many junior doctors enter medical school with aspirations of starting a lifelong journey.

“If we are met with unresolved resistance in every step we take, junior doctors will leave after serving only two years of compulsory service with the government,” she said.

Gerakan Hartal Doktor Kontrak stressed that any form of harassment by law enforcers against healthcare workers must be stopped immediately.

The group expressed concern about recent harassment towards healthcare workers who are supportive and empathetic towards the plight of contract doctors.

“Many healthcare workers have received various threats and have been investigated because they had shown support towards the contract doctors,” the group’s secretariat said yesterday.

The group added that their demands were important for the sake of contract doctors’ future and the country’s healthcare in general.

Meanwhile, The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections said the police and the government should respect the freedom of speech and expression.

The coalition noted that crackdowns on dissenters who are exercising their constitutional rights to express their views and plight is the symptom of a failed democracy.

“The method of intimidation by investigating them is an outdated measure that does not solve any problem and only denies the existing problems.

“The government needs to be democratic and wiser, more so in crisis management during this pandemic,” it said.

Meanwhile, Parti Ikatan Demokratik Malaysia said it was ready to offer legal assistance to parties in need.

In a joint statement yesterday, Muda director of managing and mobilisation Dr Mathen Nair and two junior VPs Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier and Lim Wei Jiet said the doctors only demanded for the opportunity to serve as permanent health officers.

They added that the intimidation is a clear violation of their right to hold civil protests enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“The real question is, why is the government just silent on the issue of contract doctors? Contract doctors are giving the same service as other health sector workers but are denied their rights.

“Trauma caused by intimidation from the police is something to be avoided. Do not add to the burden on those who are already quite distressed by the pandemic,” they said.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Medical Association president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam said the association had received information that many doctors who supported the Code Black and Black Monday campaigns have been investigated by police officers.

He said these investigations were unnecessary and a form of harassment to a simple solidarity campaign.

While noting the police have a right to investigate, Dr Subramaniam condemned the way the investigation appeared to target doctors who were simply championing the rights of healthcare workers in the country.

“The doctors involved are traumatised by the incident.

“They carried out their duties diligently while displaying their solidarity for fellow healthcare workers. Medical officers, like any other Malaysian, have the right to stand up, even at the very least by the show of colour,” he noted in a statement.

He reiterated that the Code Black and Black Monday campaigns have nothing to do with other similarly colour-coded campaigns. The association had also briefed the Health Ministry regarding the campaign and its demands.