Contract doctors proceed with peaceful strike

by ASILA JALIL / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

CONTRACT medical officers (MOs) went on with their strike yesterday despite the presence of police officers at hospitals and warnings received from authorities, as well as the short-term solution offered by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) ahead of the strike.

According to Hartal Doktor Kontrak’s Twitter account, among the hospitals involved in the day-long walkout included Selayang Hospital, Hospital Besar Melaka, Shah Alam Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) and Sungai Buloh Hospital.

All of those on strike were dressed in black and walked out of their respective hospitals at 11am, holding placards that said “Hartal Doktor Kontrak”. Most of them protested during their break period and continued to carry out their normal responsibilities after.

An MO from Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (Maeps) in Serdang, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that police officers told them to cancel the walkout and dispersed members of the media present at the compound.

“No walkout happened because the police said we are not allowed to do so. Members of the media were also chased out by the police as they were said to have had no permission to stay in the compound,” said the doctor.

The doctor said some MOs had a meeting with Maeps’ director to discuss issues pertaining to the protest after they were not allowed to proceed with the walkout.

“About 20 doctors had a discussion with the director, which lasted for less than 30 minutes. I am yet to know what was discussed,” said the doctor.

Police sightings were also reported at the Shah Alam Hospital, HKL, Selayang Hospital and Bentong Hospital.

On Sunday, IGP Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani had stated that the police would be observing the walkout at government facilities nationwide to ensure participants observed the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the National Recovery Plan.

An MO from Selayang Hospital told TMR that none of the police officers said anything to the protestors there as they complied with the SOPs.

He said around 50 doctors were involved in the walkout and had gathered at the compound to take photos. “The public also joined us to show support of the protest.”

During the Parliament session yesterday, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had also called on the government to focus on the conditions set out by the contract doctors and provide solutions that could lessen their burden.

“Contract doctors work like regular doctors. They work hard, but the Ministry of Health keeps delaying their demands as if it is too big (to manage).

“If the doctors had to protest, it means that they are really disappointed with the current condition and have no more hope.”

Last Friday, the Cabinet agreed to offer a two-year service extension to contract doctors upon completion of their compulsory term.

PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this was a short-term solution to the recent issues raised by the group on their employment status.

Meanwhile, Dang Wangi police chief Mohamad Zainal Abdullah said the police have opened investigation papers regarding the walkout at the HKL.

He said any form of assembly is prohibited during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

“We will open investigations because within the period of MCO, nobody is allowed to assemble or get involve in any assembly anywhere for whatever purpose,” he told reporters yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, the Malaysian Health Coalition called for no arrests to be made for the doctors who proceeded with the walkout.

In a statement, the group said although it took no official position on the walkout, it supported the contract doctors’ objectives which mainly included comprehensive long-term solutions for the country’s human resources for health, fair employment terms for the officers, and sufficient doctors, dentists and pharmacists in the country to run the healthcare system.

“We support all constitutional, legal and human rights of our health professionals. The decision to walk out is a personal one, and must be balanced with duties of patient care, the needs of colleagues and relevant laws.

“We trust our health professionals to make choices that balance their rights and duties.”

It also called for all health professionals to unite to ensure that none of the patients’ care are jeopardised throughout the period.

“We urge the government to treat all doctors with fairness and compassion. No doctors should be arrested for a non-violent walkout,” it added.