GEORGE TOWN: The high-stress levels housemen face have been an open secret for quite some time.

On a scale of one to five, 88.5% of housemen interviewed in Penang rated their stress levels at between three and five.

Those who rated their stress at five accounted for 15.4% of respondents, while 11.5% rated it at two. Not one of them said they did not have any stress.

State health committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin revealed this yesterday when she shared a 2017 survey done on housemen in Penang.To a question of whether they felt if they were treated with respect, 56.7% chose to answer “sometimes”, 20% answered “rarely”, and 13.3% answered “most of the time”. The remaining 10% answered either “always” or “never”.

On their choice of rest days, 57.7% wished they could be off-duty on weekends.

To solve any cases of mistreatment, bullying and extreme stress at work, Norlela said the state would hold engagement sessions with housemen.

She gave an assurance that “it will not be a flash-in-the-pan committee”.

“Engagement sessions will be held separately with housemen, hospitals and Health Department administrators.

“It is to come up with real solutions which will be sent to the Health Ministry,” she said.

Norlela was commenting on news that a houseman in Penang Hospital had recently fallen to his death from his residential building.

The Penang Health Department confirmed on Thursday that a graduate medical officer fell from the building on April 17 and said this was being investigated. He had been stationed at the Penang Hospital since April 4.

This is believed to be the second death involving a junior doctor in two years.

In December 2020, a doctor who had resigned from the same hospital was also reported to have died suddenly.

A housemanship in Malaysia is an internship that all medical graduates go through before becoming full-fledged doctors.

As spelt out in the 2019 Guidebook on House Officers, housemen must serve under several medical disciplines such as surgery, obstetrics and paediatrics.

Each discipline should not exceed 12 months and the total internship time should not exceed six years, but in practice, the time frame can vary from 18 to 24 months.

Those suffering from mental health issues can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); or Jakim’s (Islamic Development Malaysia Department) family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp).

They can also reach out to Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929), Befrienders Penang (04-291 0100) or go to for a full list of numbers nationwide and operating hours, or email