Kita Semua Penghasut
Exhausted doctors are quitting in droves

O Doctors! Our Doctors!

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning
 – From the poem O Captain! My Captain!, by Walt Whitman

One debate that’s been raging of late, among the medical fraternity, Putrajaya, politicos, regular folks and armchair experts of Twitterjaya, is the issue of junior contract doctors.

Namely, is there truth to claims they’ve been getting the raw end of the career deal for years? And are some 18,000 of them right to wanna carry on with their planned July 26 (that’s this Monday!) hartal/mass protest in the form of a walkout, amidst this bloody epidemic?

But irrespective of whether you’re on Team Hartal or not, there’s one thing no one can argue with: For over a year and a half, Malaysia’s medical frontliners doctors, nurses, medical officers, pharmacists, ambulance drivers and more have been giving us their all, rendering life-saving treatment and care to millions as Covid-19 ravages the country, and the world.

And here, seemingly at the edge of all things, as we ride the 4̶t̶h 3rd wave (who can keep count anymore?!?!) of the pandemic, with our healthcare system collapsing about our ears, over 15,000 infected daily and close to 8,000 dead, many frontliners it would seem, are running on empty.

Worse, more and more are starting to feel they have no more left to give.

Over the past coupla weeks, media reports have come out stating that doctors, especially in the Klang Valley (the eye of Malaysia’s Covid storm) are resigning on 24-hour notice. Don’t believe us? Read it for yourself here, here, here, and here.

The reasons are clear. They’re tired. Burnt out even. Morale is low and its harder and harder to keep the faith.

Many were unable to face another day working on fumes while clad in head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE), putting the wellbeing of others above theirs’ and their families’ physical and mental health.

We’re not being melodramatic here. We really are facing a health and humanitarian crisis like never before in any of our lifetimes.

At the heart of this issue aren’t doctors, specialists or medical professionals, but humans. Doctors are people too. Folks with loved ones just like us, who are wracked with worry just like us, and who’ve lost family and friends to the virus just like us. There is no “us” and “them”, there is just “we”.

In the case of contract doctors, many of them are very aware that when the pandemic is over, long-standing issues of lack of job security will resurface, that there’s no future of their own to look forward to once this is over.

And despite all this, there is this sense their cries have fallen on deaf ears, with the powers that be seemingly more keen on PR and saving face than letting our healthcare workers know they are being heard.

Read our wicked Fahmi Reza X BTL commentary of the gomen’s previous gag order against medical whistleblowers here.

Take Selangor Health Director Dr Shaari Ngadiman, for example. Instead of acknowledging the heavy burden shouldered by doctors since the outbreak began last year, he claimed the 160-odd doctors in the state that quit this year “lost interest” in the field and/or wished to earn more moolah.

The Health Ministry, meanwhile, insists there’s no increase in resignations this year than in previous years. 

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. And while physicians are bound by the Hippocratic Oath to care for the sick, it shouldn’t have taken a deadly pandemic, resignations, and threats of a strike at the expense of ordinary Malaysians for the gomen to finally think of a remedy to cure the doctors who are sick and tired of the healthcare system.

Picture of Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Fahmi Reza is one of Malaysia's most iconic political graphic artists and activists. Using his wizardry with the pen and his wicked sense of humour, he calls out government and political incompetence and deceit through graphics and posters.

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