Press Statement by Charles Santiago on Thursday, 23rd October 2008:

Horrifying work conditions at Klang GH, urgent changes required

I am concerned with the frustrations faced by doctors at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah hospital, in my Klang constituency. Discussions with these medical practitioners have revealed shocking work conditions and general dissatisfaction relating to remuneration and perks.

It had been brought to my attention that the doctors work extremely long hours - their day starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. But they are "on call" from 8pm to 8am and then continue with their normal working hours which ends at 5pm.

Such working hours have led to many cases of medical negligence. One doctor recalls a case where a man suffered permanent damage to his testicles due to torsion as the medical officer on duty was simply too tired to book him for an emergency surgery.

It is given that such behavior is unacceptable but we have to take stock of the situation and come up with a durable solution to prevent malpractice due to long working hours.

As such, I strongly recommend the Health Ministry to come up with a shift-based system to allow doctors enough time to rest. I have been informed that the anesthesiology department, in most hospitals in the country, has implemented shift work.

The Klang General Hospital is also severely short-staffed as many doctors and specialists have left to join lucrative private medical centers. In addition, the income disparities between local and foreign doctors are another factor leading doctors away from the government services.

My constituents have complained that it can take months to secure an appointment with specialists. I have had constituents literally crying over the phone asking me to intervene with the medical authorities seeking early appointments so that their medical conditions does not deteriorate further. Such as system works against the interests of lower middle classes and poor since these groups are dependent on government hospitals as the primary health care provider.

Although I understand that the country is facing a shortage of doctors, I urge the government to look into standardizing the salary and perks for both local and foreign medical practitioners. This would go a long way in stopping the flow of doctors from government hospitals.

I would also like to take this opportunity to laud the efforts made by the government to help students who have graduated from un-recognised colleges. I appeal to the government to come up with a different system to allow these graduates to be absorbed into government hospitals, while not compromising on standards and quality. 

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang