MMA to govt: “Address burnout or more public healthcare doctors will leave”

THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has warned of an impending collapse of the country’s public healthcare system if the issue of burnout among doctors is not addressed.

MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said in Malaysia’s public healthcare system, housemen work on a shift system until they complete their training.

Medical officers (MOs) and specialists in departments such as Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics and Anaesthesiology work on an on-call system where those put on active on-call duty work their normal working hours from 8am to 5pm and then begin their on-call hours from 5pm to 8am the next day.

On a regular basis, due to the heavy workload, MOs and specialists work beyond their on-call hours, with certain departments permitting post on-call time off in the afternoons at the discretion of the head of the unit.

“This must not go on. We cannot expect doctors to perform at their best and deliver the best outcomes when they are clocking in these unreasonable hours,” Dr Azizan stressed.

“At the rate we are going, if the status quo remains, more public healthcare doctors will leave to either private healthcare or to pursue opportunities abroad.

It needs to be noted that burnout among healthcare workers increases the risk of medical errors.”

Dr Azizan further noted that the number of doctors leaving public healthcare should not be taken lightly as over 70% of the population depend on public healthcare for their health needs.

Furthermore, it was reported that from 2017 to 2022, contract MO resignations rose by a staggering 1,131%. It was also reported that 890 specialists resigned from government services between 2018 and 2022.

Shift system

To prevent burnout and further brain drain among doctors, MMA proposed that the government switch to a shift system for doctors in public healthcare, which is similar to the European Working Time Directive (EWTD).

“The MMA made the proposal at a meeting held with the Health Ministry (MOH) recently. The EWTD requires the working week to be an average of 48 hours while doctors in Australia generally work between 35 to 38 hours a week,” Dr Azizan stated.

“Doctors in Malaysia’s public healthcare system doing active on-calls in departments such as Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics and Anaesthesiology work an average of between 60 to 84 hours per week depending on manpower resources.

“To mitigate burnout and further brain drain, the MMA is proposing that the government adopt a shift system for all doctors doing active on-calls in public healthcare – three shifts per day while introducing a flexi-allowance for MOs, specialists and subspecialists.” – Feb 28, 2024


Main pic credit: iStock

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