Malaysian doctors stage “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” walkout 

Contract doctors in Malaysia have been raising awareness about job inequalities they’ve faced via the movement and hashtag “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” online. Despite several warnings from authorities, a nationwide walkout by medical officers scheduled for today, 26th July 2021, came to fruition with medical officers joining the call. 

While the walkout has been peaceful and brief, police are now launching an investigation into possible SOPs breaches due to a failure by involved individuals to obtain a public gathering permit from the Director-General of Health.

#HartalDoktorKontrak walkout began at 11AM today, 26th July

Yesterday, 25th July, Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah took to Facebook to address the #HartalDoktokKontrak demonstration planned for today, 26th July.

In the Facebook post, he urged his “fellow colleagues, doctors and healthcare workers” to not “join the demonstration and abandon your duty to your patients. Remember, many lives are on the line and the demonstration could affect their lives and even your career”.

Dr Noor Hisham also reiterated the government’s amendments to address contract doctors’ concerns, including a two-year extension of contract positions and an allowance for medical officers “to continue [pursuing] their Masters even in contract positions, and [with] permanent EPF position [offered] once made available”.

To cap off his post discouraging the demonstrations, he reminded them that patients’ safety is their priority.

HartalDoktokKontrak - Health DG
Image credit: Noor Hisham Abdullah

Nonetheless, according to a report by Malay Mail, hundreds of junior doctors and medical officers went forth with the demonstration at 11AM at public hospitals nationwide. Medical officers showed solidarity with the movement by dressing up in black, carrying banners and placards, at hospitals such as Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Ampang Hospital, Sultanah Aminah Hospital, and Penang General Hospital.

The walkout lasted approximately 30 minutes or less at each respective hospital, with no more than 50 doctors involved in the demonstration at each location, as observed by Malay Mail in the same report.

HartalDoktokKontrak - doctors
Image credit: @HKontrak

Many who joined in on the protest cited job inequalities, with their calls for permanent positions and pleas for work benefits, specialising opportunities and more not yet met by the government. The mental and physical burden on medical officers is another concern of theirs, along with the lack of job security and career progression in their current contract positions.

The walkout is said to help raise awareness on these contract doctors’ prolonging concerns, many of whom are currently helping the country fight the pandemic by treating Covid-19 patients.

Netizens on social media have come out to show virtual support for medical officers via the hashtag #HartalDoktorKontrak on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Some have also taken to sharing blank, blackout photos in support of the movement.

HartalDoktokKontrak - statement
Ground rules for the walkout, and hospitals where walkouts have been planned.
Image credit: Hartal Doktor Kontrak

While there have been unrest among the public and authorities with regards to patient care during the walkout, this post on the movement’s official Facebook page shared some ground rules for individuals who are showing support for the movement.

It includes points such as “ensuring that patient care is not compromised” during the walkout to knowing the “risk of disciplinary action” of involved medical officers.

HartalDoktokKontrak - doctorsImage credit: @Urra901109

To not disrupt patient care, a priority of medical officers, a “Hartal How To’s” poster shared on the Facebook page called on medical officers to do “passovers” to their fellow colleagues if they planned to join the walkout.

The Facebook page also listed ground rules for the walkout, including doctors returning to their workplace as patient care is their priority, and no tolerance for violence during the protests. Other rules include following Covid-19 safety measures, or SOPs, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Police launch investigations over Hartal Doktor Kontrak SOP breaches

Despite the measures carried out by participating individuals in the protest, the police will be opening a police investigation paper on the demonstration and movement at Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), as reported by Astro Awani on 26th July.

Dang Wangi District Police Chief Assistant Commissioner Mohamad Zainal Abdullah cited SOP breaches as the cause for investigations, as public gatherings for any reason is not permitted under Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan – or Movement Control Order.

Permission for gatherings – such as religious, social, recreational, marriage or culture – must be obtained from the Director-General of Health under Rule 10 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease (Measures within Infected Local Areas) (National Recovery Plan) Regulations 2021.

Contract doctors stage “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” walkout 

Medical frontliners play important roles in caring and treating individuals who are ill and more in our country. The pandemic has only further reminded us all of their hard work in ensuring that we are safe from Covid-19 too. So it’s unfortunate to see contract doctors having to stage a walkout to help raise awareness of their concerns and pleas.

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Cover image adapted from: @avenfauzi

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