Concerns of junior doctors are concerns of the public too

Dr Sean Thum

Modified 24 Apr 2019, 4:31 am

LETTER | The shocking revelation that a large number of "floating contract medical officers" is stuck in the limbo between being house officers and medical officers is not surprising. 

In fact, it seems like this issue is part of the symptoms of a larger disease plaguing the health ministry.

The ministry bought itself time with the implementation of the shift system back in 2016. The hope then was that an amicable solution to this issue could be found by the time these contract house officers make the step up to the position of medical officers.

However, look where we are two-and-a-half years down the road.

Those who have completed their housemanship training in December 2016 are still waiting for the confirmation of their posts as medical officers; and are given temporary placements with no end date in sight! 

This reeks of inefficiency within the ranks of the health ministry.

While this disorganisation is extremely frustrating, it is not limited to the ministry, but also seen in the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) as well.

Frustrations along the medical fraternity towards the MMC have been apparent for a few years now. Various issues such as a delay in receiving the Annual Practicing Certificate (APC), difficulties in contacting the MMC, and weak responses to enquiries have built disgruntlement among doctors.

Since February, the MMC website has been said to be placed under maintenance. Calls to MMC at their official hotline are almost always not picked up. Emails sent receive no reply. 

How would doctors practising out of the Klang Valley obtain information or clarify enquiries with the MMC?

Recently, house officers approaching the end of their housemanship are facing similar discontentment as they seek to apply for their full registration numbers. 

When queried about the reason for the long wait, the answer was that the IT system is down, and thus the applications were not processed yet. When asked about how long it would take for the system to be up and running, the answer was ‘unsure’.

This inefficiency is unprofessional because this is a council that manages the medical profession in Malaysia. It plays a highly important role in recognising the qualification of all medical practitioners and also in the deliverance of care to the public. An inability to resolve its issues simply compounds existing problems.

As in the case of the aforementioned house officers, results in the delay of the progression of their careers. This inadvertently results in the worsening of the backlog at the stages between house officer and medical officer.

Let me summarise the list of concerns house officers are facing today.

On top of putting their energy into their training to become competent doctors, they have to worry about the inefficiency of the MMC in processing their applications for a full licence. 

And even if they get their registration sorted out, they are then stuck in a situation where they are in the dark over their future placements.

I do not envy their predicament.

Junior doctors are the backbone of the healthcare service today. They are the ones who will, in due time, become the leaders in the healthcare system.

The health ministry hould work hand in hand with the MMC to ensure these junior doctors get to progress in their careers with bureaucracy red tapes as obstacles. 

For it is the public who lose out if our talented youngsters find this quagmire difficult to navigate and instead decided to employ their services elsewhere in the future. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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