The Public Service Department (PSD) has been urged to review the salary scheme for medical officers (MOs) – both doctors and nurses – to encourage them to remain in Malaysia.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi expressed the importance of the matter, in light of the event whereby more and more medical officers were found to be migrating abroad – in hopes to seek higher salaries.

“It is time for PSD to review its salary scheme to prevent a “brain drain” situation in the country,” he highlighted.

“The country has spent a lot on them in order to give the best services to the people here, as well as to improve their skills. (But) unfortunately, many of them have migrated to other countries in search of higher pay,” added Zahid Hamidi.

He also said that the country has spent a lot in terms of training and education, but is not doing enough to retain the medical officers.

“It is time for PSD to review its salary scheme to prevent a “brain drain” situation in the country,” urged Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Photo credit: Straits Times
“It is time for PSD to review its salary scheme to prevent a “brain drain” situation in the country,” urged Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Photo credit: Straits Times

Better incentives at private sectors

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah echoed in agreement – stating that the government had invested millions of ringgit for the officers’ undergraduate and postgraduate education; but were unable to retain them even in the public services sector – considering many are working in private sectors, as the perks are more lucrative.

“It is long overdue for us to review the salary scheme of doctors, particularly, for specialist, to retain them in the public service. The private sector offers them better income,” he remarked.

He urged the public sector to provide “a more conducive environment, work-life balance and attractive salary scale with perks in continuous medical education, research opportunities and training from time to time to retain the talents.”

“It seems that other countries are offering better salary and perks to lure our specialists to migrate without having to invest in their undergraduate and postgraduate education… We should seriously look into this in order to make a difference in our healthcare system,” he iterated, adding that even MOs in the Jusa C category were resigning.

“The pull from the private sector is getting stronger while increasing workload and low incentives are some of the push factors from the public sector.”

The medical “brain drain”: An old recurring issue

The issue of a medical brain drain is not new. The long wait to start housemanship is also a crucial factor. Suggestions have been made to absorb medical graduates to be taken into hospitals to work as temporary nurses, pharmacists, counsellors or even administrators.

Such move would help ease the workload as well as keeping in touch with their practice, while providing them a source of income.

Upon being a medical officer, doctors are also overworked with lack of sleep and insufficient leisure hours to keep stress at bay. These issues have been highlighted in the media recurrently; nonetheless, no official action has yet been taken.

“It is against the law for anyone in whatever field to work more than the stipulated number of hours per day and employees should be given their days off and holidays. Even working overtime with pay is limited to reasonable hours,” expressed Dr Peter J Pereira, a doctor in Selangor.

“Surely doctors and housemen are entitled to these basic human rights,” he added.

Zahid Hamidi also said that Malaysia has a great potential in health tourism and experts should be retained so that the state of medical tourism can flourish. He further urged the PSD director-general to address the pressing issue of professionals migrating to other countries, as soon as possible. MIMS

Read more:
“Drop Out Club”: Explore the alternatives – Part One
Part-time doctoring as a means to cope with burnout
Why are healthcare professionals leaving traditional job roles?

Sources:
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/06/07/let-medical-graduates-do-hospital-related-work/
https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/09/280504/revision-medical-officers-salary-scheme-long-overdue-health-dg
https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/09/280400/zahid-urges-review-medical-officers-salary-scheme-prevent-brain-drain