Since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020, our healthcare workers have been hard at work serving the people and carrying out their duty to the nation. Heart-warming stories of their sacrifices and contributions have adorned the pages of newspapers and social media. There is no doubt that they are the heroes Malaysia has the privilege to call her own.
It is therefore truly disappointing when healthcare workers had to resort to writing to Members of Parliament, informing us of the chronic, serious issues affecting them.
In a letter from the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) addressed to me and 219 other Members of Parliament, several important issues were raised regarding manpower at the frontlines, as well as the welfare of the healthcare workers. I am dismayed at this surprising news, as these are basic components in our healthcare workers’ welfare that should have been addressed.
It is very important to look after our healthcare workers, as they play a very important role during this pandemic. As such, I call the government to:
1. Ensure adequate manpower at the frontlines
Many healthcare workers have spoken to the media regarding physical and mental exhaustion. Working in an environment with a high risk of infection, it is inevitable that healthcare workers may contract the disease, and sometimes have to undergo quarantine. These enforced periods of absence lead to increased workload for their colleagues on duty, and consequently further raising the risk of burnout. It is imperative for the Ministry of Health to communicate effectively with the Public Service Department to ensure adequate manpower at the frontlines.
In his Budget Speech 2021, Finance Minister promised 35,000 job opportunities in the public sector, with priority to fill up positions such as nurses, medical attendants, social welfare officers and temporary teachers. PN government should explain how many of these 35,000 positions have been filled.
2. Ensure the welfare of every healthcare worker is not compromised
For our healthcare workers to be able to concentrate in their duties, their welfare must be taken care of. We have to ensure that they have adequate Personal Protective Equipment at the frontlines.
It is a concern when the promotion in service grade of contract doctors from UD41 to UD43, which had been promised to them by the Minister of Health in 2020, has not been implemented. This is a source of frustration for many contract doctors (MMA estimates the number to be around 10,000), as it denies them fair remuneration, despite them taking on the same amount of workload and responsibility of UD43 equivalent.
3. Childcare service for healthcare workers who are unable to work from home
Our healthcare workers are unable to work from home, and they spend a significant amount of the day at the frontlines. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM) should establish childcare centres capable of catering for the children of healthcare workers, keeping in mind their sometimes-erratic working hours.
Our healthcare workers are our last line of defence against the COVID-19 pandemic and future healthcare crises to come. We should and we must resolve these issues to reverse the silent brain drain from our nation.
I call on each and every one of my colleagues, including those across the aisle, to join our healthcare workers in holding the government accountable.
I stand in solidarity with our government healthcare workers.