PETALING JAYA: Government doctors certainly have a lot to complain about, and they’re mostly to do with the much better perks offered by the private sector.
But this time, they are griping about their counterparts who do overtime at government health clinics. And it’s all about a vast discrepancy in the on-call allowance and overtime rate.
Doctors at government hospitals get a RM10 hourly on-call allowance, while those at government health clinics get RM80 for every hour’s overtime.
The hospital doctors say they have to attend to life threatening and emergency cases at casualty units, while the clinic doctors mostly only attend to patients complaining about coughs and colds.
Doctors at government hospitals have to perform on-call duty several times a month, and have called on the Health Ministry to standardise the payment rates.
“The RM10 hourly allowance for on-call doctors is grossly unfair,” said a senior doctor at a government hospital in the Klang Valley.
The doctor revealed that eight to 16 doctors were rostered for on-call duty in most large government hospitals.
”On the other hand, our counterparts at the health clinics are being paid RM80 hourly for treating patients with coughs and flu,” he said.
Other doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they preferred to serve at government health clinics which have extended operating hours to 9.30pm on weekdays, and from 8am to noon on Saturdays.
“We don’t have to work long hours and the workload is also not that heavy at health clinics,” said one doctor.
A 29-year-old doctor from Malacca said that with the current inflationary pressure, young doctors could hardly survive, especially if they were married with children.
The ministry reviewed the on-call allowance after two decades in 2005.
For weekdays, the on-call allowance was increased from RM75 to RM150 per day (calculated at the compulsory 15 hours of on-call duty which has to be performed daily), while such allowance on weekends was increased from RM113 to RM170.
The ministry started the overtime scheme at 16 government health clinics earlier this year for doctors who volunteered to work from 5pm to 9pm.
This means that a health clinic doctor who volunteers to work the four-hour period will earn RM320, compared with RM150 for a hospital doctor's 15 hours' work.
A specialist doctor cautioned that young doctors may be discouraged from serving in government hospitals if this issue was not resolved.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai explained that “overtime” and “on-call” were different, likening them to an apple and orange situation.
“Being on call is something that all government doctors have to do while working overtime is voluntary. You cannot compare working overtime with being on call,” he clarified.
He said the ministry was not considering raising the on-call rate but pledged to work on improving benefits for doctors to retain more of them in the public sector.