Plight of Junior Doctors

I found this to be a compelling read this morning, and one hope that steps are taken to change it.

I REFER to the letter “Act fast so our doctors can do their job” (The Star,April 17) and wish to make a slight correction.

The Public Services Commission (PSC) conducts special interviews for new doctors, dentists and pharmacists three to four times monthly, and not twice weekly as stated by the writer.

Nevertheless, I agree that the interview process does not pose any delay in the recruitment exercise as the candidates can apply online and book their prefered interview appointments well in advance and the procedures is explicitly displayed on the PSC’s And, true enough, appointment letters are issued to the candidates on the same day after the interview.

The plight and frustrations of the housemen and doctors in the government service have been highlighted several times in the media and yet scant attention has been given to ease their sufferings. They are also paid a pittance in salaries and allowances.

Your news report entitled “RM6,000 a month for docs after two-year housemanship” by Izatun Shari (The Star, March 6, 2008) and comment “Good way to keep government docs and housemen happy” by V.K. Chin (The Star, March 18, 2008) were happy news, but sadly, it has not been put in place until today and remains a dream. Would the Health Ministry and Public Services Department care to clarify?

Housemen and doctors in the government service have been suffering in silence for years without proper and adequate remuneration and allowances. The conditions they work in, especially in remote locations, are pathetic and deplorable. They deserve better.

Often enough, at least two to three times per week, they are required to work on a 36-hour on-call schedule on each occasion, and they are required to get back to work again the next day after merely 12 to 16 hours’ rest.

Incredible and unbelievable work pattern that contravenes international labour standards/practices and our own Employment Act 1955 that stipulates that “no employees shall be required to work for more than eight hours per day and if overtime work is required, it shall not exceed four hours per day.”

Currently, all medical graduates must undergo the compulsory two-year housemanship and a further three years of mandatory government service before they are accorded full registration by the Malaysian Medical Council.

Although on completion of four of the five-year compulsory service, the doctors are permitted to apply to do their masters/specialisations, it must be noted that they do not get any paid study leave nor fully paid sabbatical leave to pursue their masters, which is accorded to their counterparts in the government service. Instead, they are required to continue to go to work and be on long and protracted call duties.

It must also be understood that unlike other graduates who take three to four years to complete their undergraduate studies, medical studies take between five and a half years in Malaysia, the UK, India, Australia, etc, and six-and-a-half years in Indonesia, Russia, USA, etc to compelete.

The PSC and PSD have failed to acknowledge and recognise the difference between medical graduates and other graduates. And this is the very reason that the doctors are just lumped into the general 41 salary scale together with other graduates who are spared the mandatory five-year service and their undergraduate studies take a shorter period to complete.

It is high time that the Government established a Medical Services Commission to address the various issues, grouses and unhappiness of doctors.