When the blooded are thicker than water

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KUCHING: The lack of employment guarantees for junior doctors, especially those under scholarship bonds, must be resolved to help students repay their loans, said the Sarawak DAP here.

The Health Ministry reported last week that out of 2,600 graduates who cannot find placement, 1,219 candidates had been offered contracts as housemen, or junior doctors, by the Public Service Commission. This was proposed in Budget 2017. Recipients are medical, dental and pharmaceutical graduates.

“The absorption of housemen under contract, which does not guarantee permanent employment, has raised much concern among the current applicants as well as those housemen in training, especially those who are bounded by scholarships bonds,” said Dr Kelvin Yii, who is special assistant to Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen.

Yii, a former practising doctor, said that currently under the contract system, the housemen will get the necessary training for graduates in the first few years but will be offered permanent positions based on shaky evaluation methods.

“This system was supposedly implemented to address the oversupply of medical graduates as well as to cut down the waiting period for doctors to get the placements due to limited permanent positions.

“However there are strong concerns on the transparency and consistency of the selection process,” Yii said, adding that the evaluation methods vary among different departments and hospitals.

“There are heads of departments who are more lenient than others, and the fact that there is no standardised evaluation, it might open up to the possibility of favouritism or preferential treatment, rather than fully based on merits. For now, no one actually knows how they will decide and what criteria it is based on,” Yii said.

Yi added that for those who are on scholarship bonds that can be up to 10 years may not be able to repay the student loans if they aren’t able to obtain a permanent posting quickly.

“They will be then heavily burdened financially if they do not get a permanent posting because of a system that may not be transparent, objective or even fair,” Yii said.

Yii proposed that standardised assessment criteria by set up with continual monitoring of the housemen’s performances for future evaluations for permanent positions.

Meanwhile, the Public Service Department (JPA) interviews for doctors in Sarawak are expected to be carried out in February or March, which is later than for applicants in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.

“The reason given was they want to clear the higher load of applicants in Peninsular Malaysia and also due to the lack of manpower in Sarawak,” Yii said, adding that it raises concerns whether the reported 181 applicants in Sarawak will be absorbed into service later than the rest of their counterparts.

“I thus urge JPA to rearrange a closer interview date to be fair to the applicants in Sarawak,” Yii said.