KUALA LUMPUR: Police will investigate a strike staged by contract doctors at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) on Monday (Jul 26), Malaysian media reported.
Dang Wangi police chief Mohamad Zainal Abdullah was quoted as saying that an investigation paper has been opened against the doctors for violating the restrictions against gathering amid COVID-19.
“Yes, we will open an investigation paper since no person is allowed to gather or be involved in any gathering at any premises within any infected local area whether for religious, wedding, sports, recreational, social or cultural purposes without obtaining prior permission from the director-general of health as stipulated under the regulation,” he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
A walkout dubbed Hartal Doktor Kontrak (Contract Doctors' Strike) took place on Monday morning at various hospitals across the country.
The contract government medical officers had earlier issued an ultimatum to the government to address their concerns regarding the contract system.
The lack of job security, limited length of service and other terms and benefits were among their concerns.
READ: Malaysia government contract doctors frustrated over lack of job security, benefits as COVID-19 drags on
The contract scheme, which was first introduced by the health ministry in 2016, has been a major stumbling block in their career progression, according to the affected junior doctors.
Under the Malaysian public healthcare system, doctors will first need to undergo a two-year compulsory service period. To become a specialist, they would need to train for a further four years. With most contract doctors getting a five-year tenure, they have found it challenging to complete their specialist training.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the government will extend the contract of all contract medical officers, dental officers and pharmaceutical officers for two years upon completion of their mandatory service, as part of the immediate actions to address their concerns.
He said that the contracts of those accepted for further study in specialisation will also be extended, in order to ensure that they can complete their specialisation training.
However, the contract doctors decided to proceed with the Monday strike as they were of the view that their job security concerns would not be solved with the contract extension.
"Permanent post for all contract medical and other healthcare officers must be given instead," a statement posted on Hartak Doktor Kontrak's Facebook page on Saturday read.
On Monday, groups of medical officers reportedly walked out of medical facilities across the country amid police presence. Most of their placards read "I am a contract doctor", "We are your future specialists" or the campaign hashtag.
About 50 doctors gathered in support of the strike at HKL, according to the Malaysian Insight. The group dispersed about 25 minutes later.
On Sunday night, health ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah had urged the contract doctors not to participate in the strike and abandon their duty to the patients, saying that such a move will run counter to the physicians' oath of “primum non nocere” (first, do no harm).
"Remember many lives are on the line and the demonstration could affect their lives and even your career," he said.
"I wish to remind all that patient’s safety is our priority. Remember the oath we took sincerely and be there for your patients at the time when they and country needed you the most. We are the last bastion of defence to make a difference to our patients and every life matters," he added.