The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) commends the intervention initiated by the Minister of Health to curb the critical issue of bullying, harassment and toxic work culture within the public healthcare sector.
The formation of an independent taskforce, the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) led by former Secretary-General of Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Prof Siti Hamisah Tapsir, is definitely a welcome news.
The team has been tasked with “analyzing and evaluating work culture, human resource management of health service staff, graduate medical officers, in particular” to improve the prevailing arrangement.
The recent death news of a houseman from Penang mooted various debates among healthcare experts on the mental well-being and welfare of our healers which could disrupt the quality of patient care, if left unaddressed.
Much of the HWCITF’s 162-page report is based on the analysis of data collected from a 23-page long online survey.
The effort by HWCITF to investigate over 30 service schemes under the MOH workforce is commendable. However, many of the respondents are not medical practitioners, hence there are limitations to the quantitative analysis and reporting.
Only 11% of the respondents were identified to be housemen or junior doctors and the overall percentage of medical practitioners of Grade 41 and above who attempted the survey were less than 23% of the entire 110,411 respondents.
This clearly shows an engraved hesitancy and doubt on their anonymity and fear of compromising their job as a possible consequence of participating in the survey.
We encourage the taskforce to extract and collate the responses of the 25,000 medical practitioners to create a much more feasible and reliable quantitative analysis.
We would also like to request the 14,000 pages of comments and views be reviewed for a detailed qualitative analysis and ultimately, provide practical recommendations from these data.
The report failed to distinguish the different categories of bullying with clear definitions and disclose the prevalence of bullying within different demographics and healthcare facilities. This makes the report less practical.
Failure to identify the root of the issue will correspond to the creation of non-viable solutions and recommendations.
We hope the Ministry of Health will address this anomaly seriously as we are concerned with the possible wastage of time, effort and finances invested on this endeavor, if the right measures are not taken at this juncture.
The rightful duty borne by the various ministries (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Human Resources) and governmental organisations to tackle the incompetency of medical officers at higher education level and the perpetuating toxic work culture and human capital issues within the public healthcare does not stop here.
We urge a continuous collaboration and discussion among various stakeholders such as policymakers, healthcare workers, psychology experts and NGOs to enable unprejudiced policies and confidential complaint channels specially to protect the welfare of our healthcare professionals.
This needs to be incorporated as part of the upcoming health reform strategies to ensure its sustainability.
We expect the policies to be effectively operationalized at every healthcare facility under the purview of heads of departments and hospital directors to ensure the continuity of quality healthcare delivery.
We hope to see a better way moving forward to address this matter and it is time for healthcare leaders to step in and protect our junior doctors who will in fact, provide healthcare for us in the near future.
Let us build a functional work space for our healthcare workers and make our healthcare system better for all.
(The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia embracing 12 Colleges and 23 Chapters, is a registered body representing medical specialists in Malaysia.)