Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In Sarawak, business as usual during ‘hartal’ hour

A contract doctor at Sarawak General Hospital says she was busy taking care of her patients at the time of the strike.

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While groups of contract doctors in the Klang Valley took to the streets outside their hospitals today as part of the strike organised by the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement, the scene in Sarawak was markedly different.

At Sarawak General Hospital, there were no crowds and no one was wearing the signature black of the protest movement.

A doctor who identified herself as Dr Marli said she had been a contract doctor at the hospital for two years.

She told MalaysiaNow she was unable to participate in the protest as she had been in the ward, taking care of patients.

“The protest started at 11am and I was still busy in the ward managing my patients,” she said.

“It’s not that I do not support. As a contract doctor, of course I support this movement – but if I just walk away and go out to the rally, what will happen to the patients?”

Security personnel tasked with monitoring the flow of traffic at the entrance of the hospital lobby said they had been instructed to check every 15 minutes to ensure that no crowds gather within the perimeter.

One of them said he hoped the contract doctors would not rally at the hospital, especially during the pandemic.

“At this crucial time, what we need is everyone to play their role to stop the virus from spreading,” he said.

He added that public health experts have been advising people to think twice about holding such rallies.

The strike, organised by the Hartal Doktor Kontrak group, was to take place at government hospitals and clinics across the country as part of the doctors’ demand for better treatment and absorption into permanent positions.

The organisers of the hartal or strike had claimed that some 4,000 contract doctors would join them in the walkout today, despite the government’s offer of a two-year extension of contract announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin last week.

The contract system was introduced by former prime minister Najib Razak for medical, dental and pharmacy graduates in the tabling of the 2017 Budget at the Dewan Rakyat, due to constraints on permanent positions.

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