Contract terms only for new government doctors

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PETALING JAYA: Thousands of medical, dental and pharmacy graduates finally got some relief with the government offering contracts of employment as per the proposal announced in Budget 2017.

In a report carried by The Star today, a health ministry official said more than 1,000 candidates were offered contracts by the Public Service Commission (PSC) last month.

“Since December 2016, 1,219 candidates had been offered jobs on a contract basis. With this, we hope to reduce the waiting time for housemanship training and compulsory service,” health ministry secretary-general Dr Chen Chaw Min was quoted as saying by the daily.

In March last year, it was reported that there was an oversupply of medical graduates. This was compounded with the fact that 20% of housemen were taking more than two years to finish their stipulated training, hence there was a lack of place for newer medical graduates to start their housemanship.

Based on the new policy by the government, there will be no guarantee for some of these medical graduates ever gaining permanent employment with the health ministry.

According to the health ministry, doctors who had successfully completed their housemanship within the contract period, would then be given another two-year contract for compulsory service as a medical officer, The Star reported.

“Permanent appointments will be based on their merit during housemanship training and based on the recommendation of the health ministry director-general,” Dr Chen said.

He added that any doctor offered a permanent post will still have to wait until there are vacancies, though any salary upgrade will be “backdated to the date of their appointment”, and not when they take up the post.

On graduates who are government scholars, Dr Chen told The Star that if they are not offered permanent posts in the ministry upon completion of their compulsory service, they would be advised to seek employment with university and military hospitals and the private sector.

This year, the health ministry plans to absorb 9,300 candidates (5,425 doctors, 1,921 dentists and 1,954 pharmacists) in six separate batches of intakes.

Asked to comment on the contract positions, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr John Chew told The Star it would be beneficial to patients as it would ensure only competent doctors were serving in government hospitals and clinics.

“Though the contract jobs will put more stress on housemen, as they compete for the available permanent jobs, it would also mean that only the best will get the job.

“So this is of course, good for the patient,” Dr Chen was quoted as saying.

He warned however, of a spillover effect, with many housemen waiting for permanent posts, thus creating a backlog for newer fresh graduates to start their training.

“This is because the ministry had more medical graduates than training hospitals could accommodate.”

Dr Chen concurred, adding that it is the Public Services Department (PSD) that determines manpower planning, the country’s financial ability and population needs.

“Currently, there are too many medical graduates, both in local universities and from abroad.

“However, if there are new hospitals being built, PSD may consider creating new posts,” he said, according to The Star.

Dr Chen stressed that the contract positions for medical graduates will not affect patient care in government hospitals.