Gov’t rejects doctor’s call for increased on-call allowances

THE Malaysian government has turned down a request from the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to raise on-call allowances for doctors, citing constraints imposed by a 2019 service circular issued by the finance ministry and public services department (JPA).

This decision has sparked intense debate within the medical community and highlighted the challenges faced by healthcare professionals in the country.

The Health Ministry (MOH) stated that the government is bound by the 2019 service circular and emphasised the need to consider the financial position of the country in a written reply to the MMA.

The ministry also pointed out that doctors currently receive various allowances, including critical service allowance, specialist incentives and locum allowance for off-duty hours.

“At the moment, the government is of the view that the current on-call allowances are appropriate as doctors enjoy many other allowances. They are critical service allowance (RM750 monthly), specialist incentive (from RM2,200 to RM3,100 monthly), and locum allowance to work off-duty hours (RM80 per hour).

“Others are elective surgery allowance (RM200 for specialists and RM80 for medical officers per hour) and for hospital administration (RM1,520 to RM2,480 per month according to grades).”

Despite these allowances, MMA argued that the on-call rates have remained stagnant for a decade, making it difficult for them to cope with the rising cost of living.

At a town hall meeting held in February with Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, MMA proposed a substantial 178% increase in doctors’ weekend on-call claims, advocating for an hourly rate of RM25 (up from the existing rate) which the association claimed amounts to an hourly rate of RM9.16.

However, MOH disputed this calculation saying dividing the daily on-call allowance of RM220 (the rate for public holidays and weekends) by 24 hours was not accurate. Comparisons with neighbouring countries like Singapore, where doctors receive RM60 an hour for on-call duty have added fuel to the ongoing debate.

Moreover, MOH rejected an appeal by government doctors to factor in the number of years they served as contract doctors when calculating retirement benefits, including pension. The ministry noted that contract doctors receive gratuity payments upon completing their contracts or being appointed as permanent officers.

“Their years of contract service is also taken into account when they are considered for time-based promotions,” added the ministry.

The government’s decision has left many in the medical community feeling undervalued and has raised concerns about the future of healthcare in Malaysia. – Nov 3, 2023

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