MOH assures doctors, dentists, and pharmacists that the placements will foster maturity, empathy, and resilience.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is standing by its decision to relocate over 4,000 medical officers across the nation, despite appeals from doctors to remain in their current positions or be transferred.
While their online statement didn’t directly elucidate the rationale, Health director-general Dr. Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan expressed gratitude for the medical officers who have embraced their new assignments.
“Through these new placements, officers will gain deeper insight into the healthcare system, enhancing their capabilities. This experience will foster maturity, empathy, and resilience in their roles as civil servants,” he stated.
However, he didn’t explicitly address concerns regarding doctor shortages impacting patient care, safety, and potential mortality rates in specific hospitals.
The situation had a significant impact on five major hospitals, including Negeri Sembilan’s Tuanku Ja’afar Seremban Hospital and Melaka Hospital, where the loss ranged from 80 to nearly 120 trained medical officers each.
Health Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa’s statement on July 29, indicating vacancies would only be filled by December, received criticism from government doctors.
Out of 1,843 appeals by medical officers to retain their positions or transfer elsewhere, only 332 were approved by the MOH.
Dr. Muhammad Radzi seemed to confirm the relocation primarily favored Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, and Pahang, resulting in a net gain of medical officers for these regions.
The simultaneous implementation of permanent appointments and transfers on July 31 created significant disruptions for more than 4,100 medical officers, along with dental and pharmacy officers. This abrupt shift also precluded them from claiming transfer expenses.
Nevertheless, Dr. Muhammad Radzi clarified that the Appeals Committee has reviewed specific appeals from medical officers, promising due consideration.
“After evaluating the presented justifications and considering overall service continuity and vacancy factors, appeals with valid grounds have been approved, and the officers have been informed of the decisions,” he affirmed.
His statement also addressed the ministry’s move to convert contract doctors into permanent roles, emphasizing its intent to improve healthcare quality.
“In 2022, the conversion of contract medical officers to permanent positions was undertaken extensively, a trend continued into 2023 with permanent appointment offers, based on 4,263 vacancies across health facilities nationwide.”
This strategy particularly benefited states like Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, and Pahang.
Experienced medical officers affected by the relocation encountered challenges such as selling assets and making withdrawals from Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) to fund their moves, and even being assigned to non-operational facilities.
The potential for heightened burnout and resignations due to staffing shortages was highlighted by doctors in various hospitals, including Selayang Hospital, Melaka Hospital, and Kuala Lumpur Hospital.