The health ministry has urged housemen to be aware of their rights when threatened by their superiors or told that their contracts can be terminated.
Deputy health director-general Dr Azman Abu Bakar said specialists and medical officers often spread the belief that the fate of housemen was “in their hands”.
“Do not believe it when your medical officers or specialists say ‘Look, I can just write you out, with a stroke of a pen you will be out. So you better listen to me and do what I tell you to do’.
“All this is utter nonsense.”
For anyone’s contract to be terminated, Azman said, there were several layers of “bureaucratic tape” to go through.
“At the end of the day, it comes to my director-general and me. There will be opportunities to explain why this happened, and there are channels for you to bring up these cases.”
Azman said this at the Malaysia Medical Summit 2018 yesterday. He was responding to a participant who had asked about the legal protection for housemen following the recent case of a medical consultant who allegedly assaulted a houseman.
The consultant was said to have grabbed the houseman by the collar on two occasions and threatened to punch him.
Azman said he could not comment on the case as it is under investigation by the health ministry.
He added that on many occasions, housemen were careless and did not check their case notes before “blurting out” an answer.
“You must understand that the specialist knows the case from head to toe. When ‘young cikus’ say something that is incorrect, they get very upset.”
Nonetheless, he said, housemen were protected and could go to their head of department (HOD) to lodge complaints.
“If you think your HOD is on the side of the specialist, you can go to the hospital director. If you think he is also not on your side, you can always go to the state health director.
“Worst case scenario, if he is not on your side, you can come to me. You can come and we will investigate.”
However, Malaysian Medical Council member Dr Milton Lum, who was also present at the event, said the fact that people had gone to the media was telling.
“The boys and girls on the ground have issues with the complaints procedure. They don’t feel as though they can trust it to be accountable or transparent. That’s why they go to the media.”
Deputy dean of Universiti Malaya’s undergraduate programme, Dr Yang Faridah Abdul Aziz, said bullying within the medical fraternity was “real”, and a culture that had been perpetuated for many years.
“This is one of the reasons why some housemen do not feel confident answering or participating during their training,” she said, adding that such treatment eroded the confidence of students whom doctors were supposed to train.
“It is your duty to train the person. It is not your duty to berate the person.
“It is your duty to highlight incompetence or deficiencies, knowing that it is your duty to train them. That insight is lot because you are frustrated or tired.
“The reasons could be multiple, but generally it is inherent in our culture to bully.”