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
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