Fully Vaccinated Freedom 0 422

Despite the highest number of cases our country has ever seen and major political unrest from all sides, fully vaccinated people are set to be given new rules and SOPs to allow for greater freedom. 

This has been received by the public both positively and negatively. Having some freedom in place for those who are fully dosed will bring much-needed relief to this nearly four-month-long tight lockdown. It’ll also serve as a huge incentive to those who were still unsure about taking the vaccines – the pressure of seeing their peers and friends out and about, enjoying their lives will likely push those on the fence to finally getting cucuk-ed.

However, there is a very real problem: the number of cases and the number of hospital beds available. The main reason we even went into lockdown in May was to alleviate the hospital load, but that has backfired with the hospitals on the verge of collapse. Will allowing more people freedom to go out result in a further increase in cases when we’re already in such a bad position? The Health Ministry also spoke out saying to not rush the relaxation in rules,

It’s going to be an experiment on the efficacy of the vaccines and their ability to keep individuals out of the hospital even if they were to be infected. Apart from this, a major concern is that people are so desperate to return to their lives that they will rush into this new freedom without waiting the two weeks for the immunity to kick in post-second dose. 

This two-week wait is when your immune system is at its most vulnerable and your ability to contract the virus and have it heavily affect you is very much there. If there are no rules set in place to ensure that individuals do wait out this time, there is likely going to be a spike in case of vaccinated people getting covid and falling very sick which will perpetuate a narrative that vaccines don’t work. 

All we can hope for is that the protocol that is set in place will provide clear rules on waiting for your immunity to kick in before venturing out. We’re all looking for this relief, there is no doubt about that, and hopefully, these relaxed rules will bring about some joy back to the people who have truly been suffering during this time.

Do you think it’s a good idea to relax the rules for the fully vaxxed?

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Hartal Doktor Kontrak 0 535

Doctors and healthcare professionals all over the world have been the solid foundation of this pandemic, without their hard work and perseverance, so many lives would have been lost. In Malaysia, we pride ourselves on our amazing healthcare having excellent service at both private and public hospitals. 

With our country crossing 1 million cases, the daily numbers reaching an all-time high and hospitals being pushed to the brink of capacity, healthcare workers have been reaching their breaking point. Not only are they overworked and have been facing the brunt of this pandemic, but they have also not been given the job security that they so deeply deserve.

To stand up for their rights, doctors all over Malaysia protested under the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement and walked out of their respective posts at 11am yesterday.

The demands of this strike are simple: 

That the doctors who are contracted be given the opportunity to become permanent staff with all the additional benefits that come with it. Given that it is actually within the mandate of their training, what these doctors are asking for is just what they have been promised upon their graduation. 

We took some time to speak to one doctor who has been working on the frontline:

1- Why do you feel it has come to the point where there is a need for a strike?

The contract system has been in place for 5 years now. In the beginning, we were promised that we would be absorbed as permanent doctors (and thus a step up in pay grade, get all the associated benefits, etc) once we finished our 2-3 year housemanship. But then, the government said we would be continuing our contract, and that if you fulfil certain criteria, you would be able to obtain a permanent post. But then they were in turn not transparent on WHAT these criteria were… the list of lies and false promises goes on and on. And now, five years on, when the first batch of contract MOs are facing the end of their contracts, with no guarantee that the contract itself will be renewed… they’re faced with no jobs. They have to go and either work in the private sector or seek greener pastures in some other field. 

Imagine that.

The other thing is – contract doctors cannot further their studies and become specialists under this current contract system. Contract doctors are not eligible for the local master degree programmes that trains specialists. For certain specialities, you can attempt to take what is called the parallel pathway – to sit for external exams from the UK or Australia, paid from your own pocket of course, and to get accredited via that. The problem with this is that you need a certain amount of hours and weeks and years clocked in before this parallel pathway can accept you as a candidate. And if you’re on a contract that has a clock ticking, and without a guarantee that you can fulfil that amount of hours, you’re just wasting your money because you cannot be a specialist anyway. 

All of this, all the years of being told that you should shrug off these problems and focus on your patients when you’re getting burned out and disillusioned… I think that’s why it’s come to this point. This tipping point.

2- This process of going from contract worker to permanent staff has been commonplace amongst medical fresh grads, is this a call for permanent reformation?

There needs to be a reform overall I think. If you look at doctors in the UK, all of them are hired on a contract basis. The difference is that they have a chance to further their studies, and have fair and equal benefits among all. If you want the contract doctors to be satisfied, at least make it so that we have the same benefits and opportunity to further our studies as our permanent counterparts. Either that being by making everybody permanent, or making everybody contract, we don’t really care. We just want what we’re due.

3- Do you feel like you have been put in a position where you have no choice but to work under contract?

There is no choice. In Malaysia, to qualify as a fully registered doctor, you need to complete your Housemanship (internship) in a government hospital. The only way you can do that now is by being hired as a contract houseman. Upon completing your housemanship, you are upgraded to a contract MO (lower paygrade, fewer benefits than permanent MOs). You want to specialise? In Malaysia – only possible in government service. 

Unless you want to be a private GP, or a medical officer in a private hospital… I don’t see how there’s any choice other than being a contract doctor in the government service.

4- What role has the pandemic played in sparking this movement?

The pandemic has highlighted a lot of the flaws in the current contract system. It is easier to mobilise contract workers (I am not entirely sure the reasons why), which is why you see 60-70% of our COVID frontliners being made up of contract doctors. We can be sent across the country, from Peninsular to Sabah/Sarawak within a week’s notice. We’re thrown into COVID hospitals, COVID wards, MAEPS, PPV centres, with barely enough time to breathe. Because we are quote-unquote dispensable, it is easy for the government to make use of us. And just like wet tissue paper, we are then discarded once we have fulfilled our purpose. 

That’s a metaphor I’ve often used in the past year and a half. With no news on whether our contracts will be renewed in 5 years, after having thrown us to the dogs so to speak in this pandemic, it’s no wonder we feel disregarded. Unappreciated. All the hashtag thank you frontliners, falls flat when you realise no matter how much you praise us and clap for us it won’t matter if we’re jobless in a year once the pandemic is over.

5- If it wasn’t for the dire state of covid in our country, would you seek employment elsewhere?

I’m lucky in a sense. I graduated from a university that allows me to have GMC registration (the UK equivalent of the MMC). At any point in time, if I decided that working in Malaysia was enough, I could theoretically up and move to the UK and practice there. And I’ve thought about it many times. A lot of my classmates have done so themselves, and sometimes ask me why I haven’t gone over myself. 

The simple answer is that – Malaysia is my home. I became a doctor to help people, and who better to help than those in my own country? 

Vaccinations & Body Autonomy 0 472

We’ve all heard the saying “My Body, My Choice.” It applies to almost everything within our lives, what we choose to eat, how we choose to live and the ways we choose to use our bodies. It is a cut and dry reasoning that works for most scenarios, however, when it comes to vaccinations, does My Body, My Choice still hold ground?

In recent years, body autonomy has been mainly used in the context of the pro-life vs pro-choice debate. The pro-choice movement; a leftist cause, believes that individuals have a right to decide what happens to their bodies. A sentiment that is heavily opposed by the more conservative, pro-life movement. Ironically enough, when it came down to vaccinations, the same rhetoric shared by the pro-choice allies was picked up by the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers, who are predominantly more conservative. They too believe that it is their body, therefore their choice to decide what to put into it.

This is where things become muddy. When it comes to deciding about something like abortion, it is extremely personal. It heavily affects the life of the individual making the decision and no one else (aside from family and friends). This decision doesn’t affect the mass public and definitely does not put anyone else at risk besides the person choosing to go through with the procedure. It is a decision that exists between that person and their body.

With vaccinations, on the other hand, the consideration of the decision goes further to affect a wider range of people. Not only does it affect your personal health but it affects factors like the healthcare system in your country, the lives of all the people you interact with daily and the ability for the pandemic to come to an end. In a sense, it is a decision that is much bigger than you.

How can we mediate this situation? Individuals should have a right to decide what goes into their bodies, especially when it is something to do with their wellbeing and health. But when the collective is put at risk with your decision, do you still fully have body autonomy?

Governments everywhere have been pushing their citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The rate of vaccination all over the world has seen an exponential increase with a further upturn to come in the next few weeks. Rules are slowly being relaxed for fully vaccinated people and vaccinations will likely be a pre-requisite for travel in the near future.

All these factors will also play a key role in not-so-subtly coercing those who are refusing vaccinations. Many who are apprehensive will feel the pressure and seeing their fully dosed peers going back to life will make it very difficult to stay firm on their stance. Does this challenge body autonomy? Probably. But when it comes to the collective good, is it okay for us to give up some of ourselves for the sake of everyone else?

What do you think?

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