KUALA LUMPUR: While the contract doctors’ three-day strike which was to start today has fizzled out, some patients are concerned that several hospitals may still be affected over the next few days.
When met at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), Sheikh Alauddin expressed fear that a strike could lead to delays to his appointments and push back any treatment, if necessary.
Unaware of the planned strike, he said everything seemed normal at the hospital today. However, he was sympathetic to the plight of contract doctors, saying something must be really wrong for them to even think of going on strike.
“Doctors are trained to be professional, but if they protest to this extent that means the issues they face are very serious,” he told FMT.
Another patient, who wanted to only be known as Azian, said he was aware of the planned strike and was concerned that the hospital would be even more congested.
He added that government hospitals were infamous for its crowds and long waiting times, and any strike action by doctors would only exacerbate this.
“It’s not like we can come here at any time. We’re tied down by our own commitments and we can’t predict when sickness would strike,” he said.
Meanwhile, one woman who brought her father-in-law for a regular checkup said she was unaware of the strike but had been waiting for more than 30 minutes to collect his medicine.
Recalling how her two previous visits were much faster, she said the delay could have been caused by the shortage of doctors.
At Serdang Hospital, a man named Amin said he had been waiting for hours and had yet to see the doctor. Unaware of the planned strike, he said he had been at the hospital since 10am, and was still waiting after 2pm.
Amin voiced support for the contract doctors to go on strike but also acknowledged the dilemma that they faced considering the number of patients at public hospitals who needed to be cared for.
“They should (go on strike) but the thing is, it would affect patients badly. If there was another way, it would be great.
“But I support them, they work so hard for Malaysians.”
Another patient, Viren, said he couldn’t see any signs of a three-day strike as everything seemed normal at the hospital.
Meanwhile, another patient who asked to remain anonymous said he was unaware of the strike. While he felt there was a longer wait today, he said he assumed it was due to the fasting month.
More than 8,000 contract doctors were expected to go on strike from today till Wednesday by taking medical or emergency leave and not reporting for work. They are protesting against what they described as an unfair system and low wages.
The group organising the strike, Mogok Doktor Malaysia (Malaysian Doctors on Strike), warned of longer waiting times at government health facilities during the three days. It also said some 3,000 contract doctors could resign en masse during this period.
However, checks by FMT at HKL and Hospital Serdang found that their operations were barely affected.
Meanwhile, a doctor at Hospital Serdang said he supported the strike but understood how contract doctors taking leave without a proper reason could negatively affect the healthcare system and the welfare of the public.
“If the department has enough manpower for that particular day, then I would support (and join the strike) because I still think about my patients first. Even though I didn’t take leave, it doesn’t mean I don’t support the strike,” he said.
He lamented doctors’ wages and extra working hours which come with insufficient compensation. He also said not having permanent posts meant they had fewer annual leave days than their permanent counterparts.
Another doctor at the hospital, who has a permanent post, said he also supported contract doctors’ right to go on strike. He said he had been part of the Hartal walkout in 2021 and was later made permanent.
“If the junior doctors take emergency or medical leave, then I’ll cover for them. That’s how it works, it doesn’t mean we’re neglecting the patients.
“There are no other platforms for us to (raise our demands). Honestly, if we reveal our frustrations to our administrators, it will go nowhere.”