The organisers behind a group of contract doctors who have yet to be given permanent positions say they are ready to stage a walkout from the workplace if the authorities do not respond with a solution to their problems within 26 days.
A doctor involved in the movement who wished to be known as Dr Wan said the walkout would take place at hospitals across the country at a set date but would not disclose when.
“The hartal movement began on Facebook in early June. There was a vote calling for a hartal,” he said, using the term which refers to a strike.
“This is not a warning, but a wake-up call for the government to respond to our needs,” he told MalaysiaNow.
He added that the move would be a last resort following a memorandum and engagement sessions with the government, hospital and related associations.
“The idea is that, on the set day, these contract doctors will be asked not to work so that the government realises the importance of the role they play,” he said.
He said no action had been taken against the doctors so far although he claimed they had been threatened and intimidated by the state health department.
An estimated 23,000 contract doctors are currently in government service, the most senior of whom began working in 2016.
Wan said the contracts of doctors who began working that year would expire at the end of the year, adding however that the government had yet to decide on their status.
“By right, 70% of them should be absorbed into permanent positions but until now, fewer than 700 have been confirmed,” he said.
He said the movement had received support from all levels of the health fraternity, including senior doctors, specialists and consultants.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said at a press conference yesterday that the issue of contract doctors who had yet to be absorbed would be brought to the Cabinet.
“I urge doctors in the existing contract scheme to be patient and calm,” he said.
“The working paper has been completed and we will see the decision of the Cabinet later.”
It is understood that the “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” movement has yet to respond to Adham’s statement.
A senior doctor with the health ministry, Dr Rafidah Abdullah, voiced her solidarity with the movement.
Describing the move to threaten contract doctors as an act of cowardice, Rafidah said there was nothing wrong with gathering the views of everyone and finding a solution agreeable to all.
“There are more than 23,000 contract medical officers – I want transparency on the percentage that can be absorbed from one point to the next.
“I also want to see transparency in the selection of those given permanent positions. What are the criteria and how is it done,” she said in a thread on Twitter.
Attempts to reach health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah for comment have so far failed.