Malaysia sees record Covid-19 deaths, junior doctors stage walkout

Hundreds of junior doctors protest at medical facilities nationwide over unfair job terms

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia reported a record 207 coronavirus deaths yesterday. There were 14,516 new infections, bringing the total to 8,201 deaths and 1,027,954 cases.

Meanwhile, hundreds of junior doctors at state-run hospitals staged walkouts yesterday, demanding better working conditions.

Dressed in black and holding signs with slogans including "equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunity" and "we are your future specialists", they protested at medical facilities nationwide.

The doctors are on contracts for a set period and said their treatment is worse than that of permanent government staff, even as they have found themselves on the front line of the fight against Covid-19.

They complained of a lack of job security, poor benefits and that very few are eventually offered permanent positions.

We want "equal rights, to be a permanent doctor", said a doctor at a government hospital that treats virus patients outside Kuala Lumpur.

"We would definitely not be here if we were treated fairly... we should be appreciated for what we do," the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

The doctor was among dozens who took part in the action at the hospital, which lasted around half an hour.

Protesters said senior doctors took over their duties before they walked out, to ensure patient care was not jeopardised.

There are more than 23,000 doctors on such contracts in Malaysia - about 45 per cent of all doctors in the public healthcare system, according to official estimates.

Malaysia's Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz told Parliament yesterday that the doctors' contracts will be renewed for two years to give the government time to come up with a solution.

Yesterday was the first day of a special five-day sitting after Parliament was suspended during an emergency declared in January to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan told Parliament the emergency will not be extended after it ends on Aug 1.

And Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told Parliament the country expects to reopen the economy and lift curbs for most states as early as October as the country ramps up its Covid-19 immunisations. - AFP, REUTERS, THE STAR