Malaysian doctors fear greater labor shortage as new wave of Covid-19 looms

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KUALA LUMPUR — Doctors in Malaysia are bracing for a growing labor shortage as a shortage caused by transfers and resignations could be worsened by an expected wave of Covid-19.

Doctors working at two key public hospitals in Kuala Lumpur told the Straits Times they were seeing a shortage of young doctors or housekeepers in their workplaces.

This was picked up by Hartal Doctor Kontrak (HDK), a collective of over 20,000 contract doctors in Malaysia.

The prospect of a shortage of doctors emerged after Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), the largest hospital in the Malaysian capital, warned of a “crisis” in manpower by announcing that until ‘to 20 young doctors in the hospital would be transferred next time. Monday (July 18) in an internal memo dated June 30.

The Department of Health was quick to deny the possibility of a shortage, saying incoming transfers would offset outgoing transfers in time.

However, an internal message seen by ST confirmed that management does not expect an immediate replacement for the departing doctors.

A senior doctor who worked for more than five years at HKL said concerns over the workforce ran deeper than the transfer of junior doctors.

“It’s as if the men of the house have almost disappeared,” the doctor said, referring to the young doctors in compulsory 18-month training in the civil service after graduation.

At HKL, military doctors – senior medics with more than two years’ experience – had to double their shifts due to a lack of trainee doctors to share the load, the doctor said.

Selayang Hospital, another major hospital in Selangor just outside KL’s borders, has seen at least a dozen doctors quit so far this year, a chief medical officer has said.

Those leaving had cited exhaustion after two years of the pandemic which had seen them work longer hours on stagnant wages, with private sector offers deemed more lucrative.

“The problem is that there are no new doctors coming to replace those who leave,” said the doctor at Selayang Hospital.

The doctors spoke on condition of anonymity because public service doctors are prohibited from making public comments in the media.

Junior doctors, a large majority employed under contract, have expressed their dissatisfaction over the past year as the pandemic has increased their workload.

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