PETALING JAYA: Upon entering a new month, Malaysians have geared up to support the Code Black campaign for contract doctors by wearing black and switching their social media profile pictures to monochrome.
The initiative, organised by the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) Section for House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists (Schomos), encourages individuals or companies to go black from July 1 to 12. On the final day, people are asked to go to work dressed in black.
Speaking to FMT, a contract doctor in the Klang Valley, who only wanted to be known as Aliya, described the current situation as “modern day slavery”.
She lamented the lack of pay raise, allowances and non-pay leave, which were only available for those with permanent positions. Contract doctors also do not get the opportunity to pursue a Masters’ degree for specialisation.
“How long are we going to remain medical officers (MOs)? If we want to do our Masters, we’ll have to pay on our own. If this is the case, why would I want to remain in government?” Aliya said.
She said she and her colleagues planned to wear black scrubs and change their social media pictures to all black as a sign of unity.
“All doctors should be fairly compensated for their hard work, sleepless nights and missed family gatherings.
“We can leave anytime to go to the private sector but we are thinking of our duty to the country. However, many other young doctors are leaving,” she said.
Dr K, a permanent MO, said he was also planning to take part in the Code Black movement to push for amendments in the healthcare system.
Noting that other countries also implemented the contract system, Dr K told FMT the issue was the way the government handled it.
“You can be the brightest contract doctor around, but if you want to apply to do your Masters, you can’t, because the programme isn’t even open to you,” he said, adding that there was a need for more specialists, especially in rural areas.
He said it was also important to push for transparent criteria for selection to permanent positions.
“People just want to know what it takes for them to become a permanent doctor and to be able to specialise. It’s a very simple request but the government has not revealed anything, so they quit and move to the private sector.”
Code Black gaining traction even before midnight
Among those taking part online is student-led organisation Malaysian Medics International (MMI), which has changed its logo to black and white on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It called on the health ministry to address the root issues surrounding the contract system, which had led to burnout and the hartal (strike) set to take place on July 26.
“If this situation persists, we will continue to see the deterioration of an already collapsing Malaysian healthcare system,” it said in a statement.
“Inevitably, we, the graduating medical students and junior doctors, will be forced to turn our backs on a system that has failed us, in pursuit of greener pastures where our wellbeing is a priority.”
The Malaysian Pharmacists Society has also switched its logo to black and white, along with a Facebook post saying “MPS stands with contract health care workers” and the hashtags #SolidarityforContractPharmacists, #saveMYcontractHCW #CodeBlackMY and #BlackMondayMY.
A paediatrician on Instagram, who posted a picture of her colleagues in black and white, urged her friends, family and acquaintances to stand in solidarity with contract doctors.
The child specialist said junior doctors had no chances of career advancement and faced the possibility of being jobless by the end of their contracts.
“Eventually, the healthcare system is going to be affected and the people are looking at fewer specialists being available to care for and treat them,” she said.
Posting a picture of herself in full personal protective equipment in monochrome, another frontliner said many contract doctors were working in quarantine, screening and vaccination centres throughout the pandemic.
“Following through with this policy long-term would lead to a slippery slope, ultimately culminating in a dire shortage of doctors within our public healthcare system,” she wrote.