“CodeBlue’s findings from its survey among Malaysian healthcare workers reconfirmed what we have known previously. That our healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors, specialists, medical assistants are underpaid, overworked, overstretched, working in facilities which are increasingly congested with patients, and facing extremely difficult workplace conditions. This was described in the Auditor General’s 2019 report,” Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre pointed out.
“The people who work on the frontlines of healthcare are our greatest asset and are key to delivering high-quality care. They have shown remarkable resilience and commitment. Yet, their concerns appear to not be taken seriously. Many of the recently proposed solutions to the congestion in emergency and trauma departments are seen as stop-gap measures. Most have already been tried, tested and at times failed because they depend on having sufficient staff.”
“There is excessive workload, burnout amidst widespread anxiety, trauma, and mental fatigue which are causing many staff to decide to leave, causing shortages, and increasing pressure on staff, thus creating a vicious cycle. The emergency and trauma departments have been described as war zones even before the COVID-19 crisis.”
“The pandemic has exacerbated these long-term issues, weakened parts of our healthcare system and caused permanent damage. In some hospitals today, people are waiting between 24 hours and several days for a bed,” Azrul highlighted.
“Healthcare workers are still doing 30 hour shifts. Many, especially junior doctors, housemen or medical officers, return home physically and mentally wrecked and exhausted. Some have been involved in accidents and car crashes. Tragically, some have even lost their lives as a result,” said Azrul.
“With more demand for care as patients pour into hospitals and clinics, healthcare professionals are being forced to choose between care for themselves and care for their patients, which is incredibly unfair. They have their own families, their own health issues, and their own worries.”
“Like any normal workplace environment, heavier working hours, toxic work environments, bullying and the contract worker situation, will drive people into resigning. Many are experiencing burnout and there are significant numbers intending to leave or have already left. Some are leaving to work in other countries, or worse leaving medicine altogether,” he emphasised.
“This is a leaky bucket where water poured into the bucket is going out via holes in the bottom. The holes are growing bigger.”
“The Government needs to convene a multisectoral taskforce comprising other ministries and agencies (such as the Public Service Department, Ministries of Human Resource and Higher Education) to put together a national health workforce strategy, to listen to staff, look at these issues and to put together long term plans to address both recruitment and staff retention. It is important to improve the retention of staff already working in the service. It is critical to listen and take the views of the women and men who are our healthcare workers seriously. The Government must make the formation of this taskforce a priority for its first 100 days. This is not business as usual or ‘an old story’.”
“However, these measures alone may not suffice and it will also take time to come into effect. The Government will need to consider recruitment of healthcare staff from overseas to fill the immediate needs, especially in areas of specialised care.”
“The revised version of Budget 2023 will be tabled and voted on in the next couple of weeks. Any reduction in this year’s health allocation will be reflected in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, ability to provide quality care, number of healthcare professionals leaving the service and worse, morbidity and mortality data for years to come. We need to maintain and strengthen our investment in health, not reduce it.”
“We need the Government to demonstrate not only compassionate leadership on this issue but also boldness and vision.”