Detailed study needed on govt clinic new shift system


KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to conduct a more detailed study on the new shift system at all government clinics before implementing such a move.

Its president, Dr N Ganabaskaran said the ministry must first address staffing and infrastructure issues without compromising healthcare welfare, as well as carry out more stakeholder engagement.

He said there was an acute shortage of doctors, nurses, and other support staff at healthcare facilities in the country, including government clinics.

“A proper study should have been conducted with proper stakeholder engagement before implementing the move. Besides doctors and nurses, adequate pharmacists, lab technologists, and even ambulance drivers need to be looked into as some cases will need to be referred to hospitals.

“The shift system will only work provided the government addresses the staffing issues and necessary infrastructural support. Under the new two-shift system, there will be fewer healthcare workers working per shift due to the shortages,” he said in a statement today.

He said government clinics, currently open from 8 am to 5 pm (Mondays to Fridays), are overcrowded, where the shortage in staff will stress the system during peak times in the clinic.

Dr Ganabaskaran said beside greatly affecting the quality of care, the shift system also will see the clinics extending its opening hours to 9.30 pm.

“The two shifts for staff are from 8 am to 5 pm and 12.30 pm to 9.30 pm. MOH staff were notified of the shift system only recently,” he said.

He said currently, apart from the diagnostic and therapeutic services, healthcare workers in these clinics are also involved in Covid-19 screening and contact tracing for Covid-19 cases, as well as domiciliary care and community outreach programmes.

“The staff are well trained in these aspects to ensure proper care is being given to the ‘rakyat’. By implementing the shift system, it will be impossible to continue the standard of current care,” he said.

Dr Ganabaskaran said the shortage of doctors in government clinics will also affect the Family Doctor Concept in care where doctors provide care for patients and their families from “womb to tomb”.

“Doctors who regularly see a particular patient and their family members regularly may not be assigned on the usual shift under the new shift system.

“The family doctor concept is something even the MOH has supported.

“They understand its effectiveness in the prevention, early detection and treatment of chronic illnesses as family doctors will be very familiar with their patient’s medical history from the regular follow-ups and good relationship they have developed with their patients,” he said.

Dr Ganabaskaran said the MMA welcomed any enhancement to the healthcare system but all these dynamics need to be taken into consideration.

“On the other hand, we should educate and empower the public to adhere to staggered appointments to reduce congestion in clinics which we have failed to do from not resorting to a shift system,” he said.

On Monday, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry will study the implementation of two shifts for government clinics in the country to ease congestion. – Bernama

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