PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government has agreed to extend the contracts of all junior medical officers, dental officers and pharmaceutical officers for two years upon completion of their mandatory service to ensure that they can progress to be medical specialists, said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said on Friday (July 23) the Cabinet has also agreed to extend the contracts of officers accepted for specialist studies. Those who have been accepted for specialist studies in their first-two year of service will have their contracts extended for a maximum of four years.
The announcement comes in the midst of a planned protest from junior contract doctors, who said the current contract system in the civil service has been unfair to them and plugging their career progression.
Thousands of junior doctors - many of whom are at the front line of the battle against Covid-19 - are set to go on strike next Monday over demands for permanent employment and other benefits, which they say have not been met by the government.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said on Friday the contracts must be in line with the career of a permanent medical officer.
They should be offered fully-paid study leave as well as sponsorship akin to fully-paid study leave and Federal Training Awards.
"The government understands the demand of the contract healthcare employees and acknowledges their contribution and roles as frontliners in giving the best healthcare to the people, especially in the current Covid-19 pandemic climate.
"To ensure that the matter is given complete attention and handled wholly and effectively, I have ordered the Health Ministry and all the relevant agencies to form a comprehensive and inclusive plan that involves immediate actions needed to be taken as well as short-term, medium-term and long-term plans," he said.
The Cabinet also agreed that there will be an upgrading of the benefits such as special medical duty leave, TB leave and allowance to visit place of origin to be offered to contract medical officers, dental officers and pharmaceutical officers.
"These decisions will provide the government space to finalise the reform study of the health system which is being done, looking at the existing Medical Act 1971 and to form a long-term plan for the medical profession," he said.
Junior doctors who join the public healthcare system after 2016 have been offered only contracted positions, which have been periodically extended. Malaysian medical graduates need to serve at least 4½ years in the public healthcare system before they can switch to private practice.
The contracted positions involve lower salaries compared with those of permanent doctors. They are also not entitled to the slew of benefits extended to civil servants.
Aside from job security, the doctors are also denied a viable pathway to become specialists in their field of choice, as the government provides paid study leave benefits for permanent doctors only.