In the Dewan Rakyat today, April 4th, 2023, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar announced the Government’s dedication to integrating 12,800 contract doctors who have completed their housemanship into the Government system as full-time employees. In 2023, 4,300 contract doctors will be absorbed, and the remainder will be integrated by 2025. This measure will cost an additional RM1.7 billion for the Government.
This issue is significant because, prior to 2016, most doctors were offered permanent positions upon completing their housemanship. After 2016, the influx of doctors and new hospitals put financial pressure on the Government, leading to the temporary measure of contract doctors and the creation of UD 56 to promote UD54 who are due for JUSA C but lack the available positions.
The temporary measure was supposed to be resolved within a few years, but changes in Government leadership allowed the issue to persist. Contract doctors have expressed frustration due to several reasons, including their years of service not counting towards specialist training eligibility, lack of transparency in the selection process for permanent positions, and similar workloads as permanent doctors but with lesser pay and benefits.
To address the financial concern, the Government should develop a comprehensive financial solution, such as increasing revenue through the reintroduction of a modified GST scheme or learning from Singapore’s Medisave and MediShield schemes. Amending the Employee’s Social Security Act 1969 and the Employee Provident Fund Act could allow for mandatory healthcare insurance and salary deductions for healthcare insurance, respectively.
The Government could then reduce healthcare subsidies significantly and allocate a portion of the funds to support an ‘Obama Care’-style insurance scheme, assisting unemployed citizens with their healthcare insurance premiums. For those who cannot afford basic healthcare insurance, NGOs and corporate CSR planning can help cover these insurance costs.
By implementing these measures, the Government can free up billions by 2025, allowing for fairer treatment of young doctors. Finally, it is crucial that the medical profession within the Government be granted self-regulatory autonomy, removing it entirely from the purview of JPA/SPA. This can be achieved through the passage of a law in Parliament.
In order to successfully implement these proposed measures, the Government will need to engage in open dialogue with stakeholders in the medical community, as well as with the public. Ensuring transparency and inclusiveness in the decision-making process will help to address concerns raised by contract doctors and build trust in the system.
The Government should also establish a clear timeline for the absorption of contract doctors into permanent positions, providing them with a sense of stability and assurance. This would not only improve morale but also help retain talented medical professionals who might otherwise consider leaving the public sector.
Educational initiatives and public awareness campaigns should also be developed to inform citizens about the changes in the healthcare system, particularly regarding the proposed insurance schemes and the role of NGOs and corporate CSR planning in providing assistance to those in need.
Resolving the issue of contract doctors is a matter of urgency for the Government. By developing a comprehensive financial solution and providing greater autonomy to the medical profession, we can ensure that our healthcare system is better equipped to serve the needs of our citizens. This will, in turn, contribute to the overall well-being and prosperity of our nation.