Malaysia’s doctors and healthcare system undervalued

SHOCKED, disturbed or disgusted, it was hard to deny my feelings after reading a newspaper report on about 1,500 contract medical officers (MOs). They are among the frontliners managing the Covid-19 pandemic but could be unemployed within two years because there are no more vacant posts.

They received letters from the Health Ministry stating that their contracts had been renewed for two years to May 14, 2022 – on the UD41 civil service grade, with no extensions. Their salary package remained despite taking on the same workload and responsibilities as doctors with a UD43/44 grade. They are also not eligible to join local universities’ masters programmes for specialisation.

If you or your children is one of them, how would you feel or react? Can I say as good as “habis manis sepah di buang” (when the sweetness has been drained, the husk is discarded) or worse.

When introduced in 2016, information was sketchy and the government is more or less the same today.

Between 2010 and 2019, approximately RM222 billion had been allocated to the Health  Ministry, while RM30.6 billion has been earmarked for this year, or below 4% of gross domestic product. For comparison, Singapore budgeted close to 5% of GDP.  

Just visit any public hospital, especially in the Klang Valley. We are short of hospital staff. Our doctor to population ratio is only 1.6:1,000 (Singapore - 2.3:1,000). Even Algeria and Libya have better ratios.

The director-general of health said the ministry is underfunded, understaffed, underpaid, overworked, overstretched and with facilities overcrowded with patients. The auditor-general’s reports have highlighted the severity of the situation. The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has warned the government that workers in the public healthcare system may face burnout.

We understand there may be restrictions on the government finances but there should be a mechanism in resource allocation where certain ministries may need a smaller budget. Besides, there were revenue losses when stamp duties were exempted for house purchases and monies spent on the House Ownership Campaign last year. The developers who made lots of money should absorb these costs.  

Onother area to look at are private hospitals. It is only natural for a “brain drain” towards greener pastures. Though good for medical tourism, this exodus of doctors will leave a big hole in public hospitals. We know that private hospitals and the practices housed there make very handsome profits. 

I would suggest for the government to impose a temporary levy on them to assist the MoH until such time when the severity of the situation is reduced.

Covid-19 is sort of a blessing as it exposed the real position in our healthcare system. 

Internally, MoH should critically look at the monopoly in the provision of drugs, project management and other administrative reforms to reduce costs. 

We need to ensure our healthcare system continues to provide quality and affordable services that is accessible to all Malaysians. 

The health minister should provide some good ideas to achieve this aim. 

By the way, a year ago, Malaysia with a score of 95 out of 100, was ranked first in the Best Healthcare in the World category in the 2019 International Living Annual Global Retirement Index due to its world-class healthcare services and sophisticated infrastructure.

Did I miss something?

What say you… – March 23, 2020.

* Saleh Mohammed reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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  • The whole medical fraternity must be made to feel.appreciated. They are the present heroes. In war time it is the men in uniform. The govt must lead in ensuring that they are given the full confidence and support, physicall and mentally.
    Their sacrifice in facing this moment of truth is priceless. Followed closely by those who keep the peace and the rule of law.

    Posted 3 years ago by G.Selva Ganeson · Reply

  • " .... where certain ministries may need a smaller budget. ...."

    Cut the allocation to JAKIM! If they had cancelled/postponed the "tabligh" gathering, we won't be in the predicament we are now in.

    Posted 3 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply