MoH urged to be transparent towards contract healthcare workers

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, July 23: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii calls on the Ministry of Health (MoH) to consider providing permanent posting or incentives for healthcare workers, especially in rural areas.

Dr Yii in a statement today revealed that based on the reply to the question posed in Parliament regarding the issue of healthcare workers under contract, the government did not give any clear assurance or even steps to resolve the temporary contract issue among healthcare workers, and more importantly they did not make clear again the core issue which is the selection criteria for “permanent posting”.

“I reiterate my earlier call for the whole selection to be more transparent so that there is not only greater certainty in selection, but also to remove any ‘perception’ of favouritism, bias, or even discrimination in selection.

“Clear criteria should be laid out and explained to these young healthcare workers so they know what they can work for to prepare what is needed.

“While I welcome the ministry’s announcement that those that passed the Entrance Exam or “Membership Part 1/A” or parallel specialisation pathways has an advantage in the application for permanent posting, but what is concerning is that currently, those that are willing to work in district healthcare clinics or hospitals, especially in the rural areas are not given special consideration for permanent posting,” he added.

Dr Yii pointed out that this would result in discouraging even more young medical officers and healthcare workers from wanting to serve in rural areas as they have not much incentive to do so even though there is a dire need for medical doctors and other healthcare workers in those areas.

According to Dr Yii, currently many of these young healthcare workers are offered a temporary contract to finish their compulsory training and service.

He opined that after Housemanship (HO) and the necessary training, they should be encouraged to serve in rural areas, and this should be taken as a consideration for their services to be extended and they be offered a permanent posting after their compulsory service is over.

“This helps kills two birds with one stone as you give more certainty in selection, and also address the need in the rural areas,” he added.

Dr Yii also noted that in Sarawak alone, based on the statistics given by the state government, up to 45.6 per cent or 98 out of 215 rural clinics do not even have a D=doctor, and is only run by medical assistants (MAs) and nurses.

Many of these clinics, he observed, also only provide basic medication such a paracetamol (Panadol), and have to rely on irregular mobile medical services provided through air and water to the interior.

“Such mobile clinics are set up to cater to people living in rural parts of the state, while the “flying doctors” service are provided by helicopters to natives who live deep in the jungle, and who cannot be contacted by other routes such as road or boat.

“But the frequency of the Flying Doctors Services (FDS) going to villages, for example, is at most, once a month, and once in three months, at the least. It is also dependent of weather conditions and if weather does not permit, the people in the rural are again deprived of the needed healthcare services.

“Even if they go once a month, they only spend three hours a day at a particular place. So, imagine that among these 30 days, for 29 days, they have nothing there. For 29 days and 21 hours, they have nothing there,” Dr Yii emphasised.

He reiterated that this is the dire need faced by many rural healthcare facilities, not just in Sarawak, but many places all around the country, whereby people living in rural areas also have a right to quality care and proper access to healthcare services, and this must be properly addressed.

“That is why I urge the MoH to properly resolve this contract situation. All they want is a fairer deal including giving them an opportunity to apply for specialisation.

“On top of that, take into consideration willingness to work in district or rural hospitals and clinics as a consideration for permanent posting. This will address both the need in the rural areas, and also the severe lack of specialists especially in Sarawak and Sabah,” he added. — DayakDaily