Monday, March 1

‘Address severely understaffed healthcare workforce’

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Health personnel taking of swab sample. — Bernama photo

KUCHING: The federal government has been asked to address a list of longstanding issues affecting the country’s healthcare workforce to strengthen the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.

Malaysia Medical Association (MMA) president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy repeated calls for more permanent posts for medical officers to be created immediately to ensure adequate manpower to battle the pandemic, while those not offered permanent posts should have their contract extended for at least 10 years.

“The pandemic has underscored the severe understaffing of our workforce, with many doctors forced to be placed on an increased number of calls compared to previously. This shortage of doctors exists at both the specialist and medical officer levels,” he said in a statement.

He also asked for more details on the additional 3,500 healthcare personnel to be recruited as announced recently under the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat Protection Assistance Package (Permai).

Dr Subramaniam also pointed out the ministry’s stock of high grade and quality personal protective equipment (PPE) must be closely monitored to ensure adequate supply as daily utilisation increases with the worsening pandemic situation.

“Other than physical health, it is important that we do not inadvertently overlook psychological and mental health too. Mental and psychological support for our medical personnel is also important to ensure that they can continue to serve the people at their best,” he said.

He called for Covid-19 allowances to be extended to all staff exposed to the clinical environment, including the often-forgotten back-liners, and each staff member should be given their due rest each week to prevent fatigue and burnout.

In terms of financial remuneration, Dr Subramaniam stated MMA takes the stand that the doctors’ critical allowance should be continued indefinitely without further review.

“With regard to the harmonisation of pay grade for contract medical officers from UD41 and UD43/44, MMA understands that while the fight against the pandemic is the highest priority now, this is still an important issue to address for more than 1,000 affected contract medical officers,” he said.

He also requested the federal government guarantee allowing the unused leave of healthcare workers to be carried forward to be utilised at a time when the pandemic is manageable.

Dr Subramaniam added MMA has officially written to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin regarding matters affecting the country’s healthcare workforce.