Public Health Specialists: The Forgotten Heroes …………………..
31st May 2006 was the day that sent chills through the spines of many doctors in the country. Allied Health professionals receiving full specialist allowances? This was rather ironic coming from the Health Minister himself on the very day before our AGM in Penang. Thank God we were later informed that it was a misquoted statement from the Minister by the newspapers. It should have read as Public Health Specialists.
After many years of battle by the Public Health Specialist and SCHOMOS for equal specialist allowance, finally it has come through or did it? I heard that only those who have undergone the new Master’s programme of 4 years duration would benefit from this full allowance. So, what is going to happen for the batch that has been serving the country in numerous outbreaks before this 4 years program was introduced.
Public Health Specialists (PHS) have always been left behind when it comes to health service in this country. These are the people who serve the country behind the doors, without any popularity in their work. Clinicians always have direct contact with the patients and thus are recognized as the doctors who are actually serving the “rakyat”. But who recognizes the hard work that these PHS are putting, in running the health clinics especially the maternal and child health clinic in rural areas. How many knows the sleepless night that these people go through when there is an outbreak in an area to avoid a national disaster.
These people have served the country for many years in running the health services. They have been doing all the administrative work as well as clinical work for many years. They have coordinated many health programs and have always taken all the efforts in doing health promotional campaigns in rural as well as urban areas. After being the backbone of the entire preventive health services, they have always been neglected.
What is the issue in not giving them a full specialist allowance? Is it because they don’t see patients? Is it because specialist allowance is known as “Clinical Specialist Allowance” and thus they are not entitled as they are not clinicians? What is more insulting to them is the fact that Rehabilitation specialist and Family Medicine Specialist are being given a full specialist allowance. To further add to these insults, in the recent so called “special Promotion” of U41 specialists to “Memangku U48 Bukan Tujuan Naik Pangkat”, the Public Health Specialist were clearly excluded. What a major demoralizing insult to all the public health specialists in this country. Recently it was also noted that Health Inspectors with a degree would also be promoted to U41 and thus would be equal to a PHS in ranking. What an insult !
Public Health specialist has always been lumped into the “Pegawai Perubatan Pentadbir” post and thus they undergo the same faith as a medical officer. Their specialist degrees are never recognized. They not only do clinical preventive work but also the administrative work of health clinics and centers compared to Family Medicine Specialist and Rehabilitation specialist. Their efforts during outbreaks are always swept under the carpet even though in certain national outbreaks they were given special allowances. I was also made to understand that they are not even entitled for any on-call allowances if they work after office hours during an outbreak in their area.
These derecognizing of PHS by the Ministry of Health and JPA definitely going to discourage many young junior doctors from doing Public Health specialty. In the workshop organized by SCHOMOS early this year, we have proposed that there should be only 2 categories of post in MOH which includes “Pegawai Perubatan” and “Pegawai Perubatan Pakar”. This would enable the PHS to be included into specialist pool and enjoy the same benefit of a clinician. Would this come true? Well, it is up to the current SCHOMOS Exco to follow-up this matter as the proposal has already been submitted to the Minister.
Our heroes in the health service of this country for many decades are gradually being forgotten. We may go around boasting that we have one of the lowest maternal death rates, infant mortality rates and able to stop any outbreaks effectively but whom are the people behind these successes. The backbones of this entire success are being forgotten and I sincerely hope that these forgotten heroes would one day be recognized and rewarded……….