A recent proposal for Bumiputera contract doctors be prioritised in the appointment of permanent medical officers has only served to rock the ship further at the peak of the nation’s public health storm.
The suggestion by the Public Health Association of Malaysia and the Malaysian Islamic Doctors Association was brought to light by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, and strongly rebutted by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
And rightly so. The selection of medical officers in the public healthcare sector must never be influenced by racial or religious prejudices.
Racial and religious discrimination must be nipped in the bud. When it comes to saving lives, there is no room for affirmative action. We want the best and most qualified doctors to serve all Malaysians. It has to be by merit, and no other way.
As MMA president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy pointed out, all doctors are trained to treat every patient equally, regardless of their race, religion, creed, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
It is indeed disheartening if we do not treat doctors with the same equality and equity as well, especially after all their efforts and contributions to serve the people, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the spirit of transparency and good governance, we would like to call on the Health Ministry to make public the evaluation criteria for all contract doctors.
There is also a bigger issue at hand affecting contract doctors in government service. Thousands have not been absorbed into the permanent scheme, and they are lamenting that they are remunerated less than those with permanent postings, while also missing out on benefits and opportunities for career advancement.
In many other fields, contract staff are remunerated better than permanent employees to compensate for the lack of job security, reduced benefits and on-the-job training, as well as missing out on career advancement opportunities.
With the higher take-home pay, contract staff can build their own financial safety net as well as develop their own careers independently by upskilling or attaining professional accreditation. Perhaps the Health Minister can review this model to placate the growing unrest among contract doctors, rather than create unrest by studying a racially discriminatory proposal.
As the nation grapples with the mother of all public health crises, the importance of healthcare frontliners is unparalleled – we acknowledge their key roles in saving lives and are eternally grateful for their sacrifices. And as they take care of us, we must reciprocate and look after their interests as well.
By Gan Ping Sieu, CENBET co-president