14 August 2008

Another bone of contention for government doctors

The Star

THE Health Ministry’s effort to get private doctors to work part-time may have run into a snag. The ministry has agreed to pay such part-timers RM80 an hour to help ease the doctor shortage.

However, government medical officers have objected, not to the scheme, but to the quantum being paid. Their complaint is that they should be paid a similar amount, instead of RM10 an hour to work overtime.

Their contention is that they have to look after many cases, including emergency ones, while on duty while part-timers enjoy a much lighter workload, dealing with patients with minor medical problems, such as cold, fever or cough.

The ministry will have to increase its financial allocations if this request is to be met. Otherwise, there will be a new problem for the ministry to deal with.

This is something new for the ministry to mull over since its officials would have thought that medical doctors were happy with their recent salary and allowance adjustments.

The purpose in starting the part-time programme is to get more private practitioners to fill the temporary gap at hospitals and clinics so that services to the people would not be compromised.

This is certainly a commendable decision, and would help ease the shortage temporarily until more young graduates could join the service.

So far, the response from the private sector has been lukewarm for one reason or another. The ministry finds it hard to understand why this should be so since sufficient publicity has been given to this project.

Perhaps the ministry should review this and more groundwork may need to be done to get better response. One step is to define the clinic requiring part-timers by finding out how many GPs there are in the area.

Information regarding the part-time work should be sent directly to each GP to get them to help out in this programme. In other words, instead of waiting for them to come forward, ministry officials should be more proactive and engage them instead.

Actually, RM80 an hour is quite a fair rate, and should attract some GPs to earn some extra money. Private practice is not as lucrative as believed by some. Some new start-ups can barely meet their overheads.

It would not be too difficult for GPs to earn a few thousand a month by just working a few hours daily. This will go a long way towards easing their financial burden.

It is not cheap these days to start a new clinic. A few hundred thousand ringgit may be needed to pay the rent, medical supplies, staff and utilities. Therefore, the money from such part-time work should come in handy until the clinic can stand on its own financial feet.

In fact, doctors, if they feel like it, can make such part-time job a full-time profession. They can earn RM8,000 a month by just working five hours daily for five days a week.

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