PETALING JAYA: Extending the operation hours for health clinics and diverting non-critical cases to these clinics to prevent crowding in the emergency department is a short-term solution, doctors say.
A health clinic doctor who wanted to remain anonymous said the move will create more problems for staff at the health clinic as they, too, are short of paramedics and nurses, among others.
The doctor called for cooperation between the public and the private sectors to solve the issue of overcrowding at the emergency department.
“It is true that the emergency department is crowded due to non-emergency cases.
However, the health minister’s proposal to extend the operating hours at health clinics is seen as a short-term measure because in recent years, there are indeed health clinics that operate under extended hours until 9pm, and health clinics are also known to receive a large increase of patients due to the pandemic,” the doctor said.
The plan to absorb more than four thousand medical officers into permanent positions is a good move, the doctor said, as this will help attract the interest of medical officers to stay with the Health Ministry.
However, the doctor said it is not a comprehensive step that can overcome overcrowding, but it is a necessary move to overcome the general shortage of staff.
On Friday, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said her ministry was considering extending the hours for health clinics (klinik kesihatan) and to divert non-critical cases there to relieve crowding at emergency departments, once these health clinics have “sufficient resources”.
Meanwhile, 4,914 permanent positions would be available from the ministry for 2023, comprising 4,263 positions for medical officers, 335 openings for dentists, and 316 for pharmacists.
Meanwhile, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health economics and public health specialist Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said while extending operation hours is commendable, it will overwork healthcare workers in the long run as the clinics will be manned by the same workers.
“It is better to provide some other forms of incentive besides the usual overtime payment (for healthcare workers),” she said, adding that there will always be a lack of workers as doctors often leave to further their studies.
On the more than four thousand permanent posts offered, she said the Health Ministry is always in need of more specialists as most specialists have turned to serve in the private sector.
“They are really in need in big, medium or even small hospitals,” she said, adding that there is a serious need for support staff such as nurses, radiologists and lab assistants too.
According to statistics provided last year, of the 55,981 medical officers employed under the Health Ministry, 23,096, including 19 specialists, are on contract, while 32,885, including 5,993 specialists, are permanent staff.