PETALING JAYA: Doctors have called on the Health Ministry to ensure that the reporting system for bullying cases within the healthcare sector is efficient and provides enough protection for whistleblowers.

Junior doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that several cases of bullying had gone unreported because they feared getting on the bad books of their superiors.

“It’s good that the ministry is looking to improve the reporting of bullying cases, as we junior doctors need an avenue to voice our distress on bullying.

“But many junior doctors have held back out of fear that we will be on the receiving end for reporting against a superior as we have seen it happen to those who did complain,” said a contract medical officer who is working at a hospital in Selangor.

Another doctor said it was high time that the reporting system on bullying was improved.

“What is more important is the protection of whistleblowers.

“The Health Ministry must ensure that junior doctors are protected and action is taken against the perpetrators,” said the doctor who is attached to a hospital in Penang.

He said when junior doctors lodged complaints, they were targeted and most of them chose to live with it.

“But sometimes it gets too much to handle as we are already bogged down by the extremely long work hours and heavy workload,” he added.

However, another doctor in Selangor said action was taken against the bullies.

“Personally, the working culture in my hospital is quite healthy and action is taken against such cases.

“But it depends on the dynamics in certain hospitals. It’s hard to rule out that some doctors have been at the receiving end for reporting. It could be happening in some hospitals but not in mine,” she said.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai welcomed the Health Ministry’s efforts to enhance and improve the whistleblower system.

“It has been a long time coming and the MMA via its Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists will give its cooperation and assistance in this matter,” he said when contacted.

Spokesman for the Hartal Doktor Kontrak group, Dr Mustapha Kamal A. Aziz, said inquiries into bullying cases must be independent to ensure fairness.

“It should be under the jurisdiction of the ministry to maintain anonymity and to carry out inhouse inquiries.

“We have a superb efficient system like the Public Complaints Management System (SisPAA).

“The system is there but they must take action,” he said when contacted.

Dr Mustapha added that those who reported bullying cases in the past had to bear the consequences.

“We have been told that those who lodge complaints were mocked or reprimanded,” he alleged.

Yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry is looking to enhance the whistleblower system to improve the reporting of bullying cases within the healthcare sector and to better protect whistleblowers.

“It is already there, but now we want to enhance and improve the system,” he added.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry will extend its full cooperation to the independent task force set up to look into cases of junior doctors being bullied.

He added that the taskforce will also provide guidelines and propose measures that could be taken by the ministry to tackle the problem.

Dr Noor Hisham also said that while it took strength and resilience to undergo training to be a doctor, the bullying culture could not be condoned.

The Star on May 7 reported on the ordeal of junior doctors who worked long hours and faced problems such as mental health issues and bullying within the medical sector.

On April 17, a 25-year-old houseman at Penang Hospital died following a fall from his rented apartment unit in George Town.

He was posted to the hospital on April 4.

Following the incident, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said a task force will be set up to investigate the case.