PETALING JAYA: Many housemen serving in government hospitals are ill prepared for the harsh realities of the job, according to a senior government doctor.
“They get a culture shock,” he told FMT, adding that this was especially true of those trained overseas.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the interns didn’t realise, until they joined the service, that they would have to work long hours and to be at the bottom of the food chain, which would mean taking instructions even from nurses.
“Some come in thinking they will have a nice air-conditioned office, that they don’t have to run around and do certain things because those are nurses’ jobs,” he said.
“There are even some who can’t stand the sight of blood.
“There are also those who are just going through the motions to complete the housemanship. They don’t have the passion to become a doctor.”
Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa recently disclosed that housemen made up the highest number of civil servants served with termination notices. He said their inability to deal with the pressures of working in a public hospital caused many of them to disappear from work for days, at times hundreds of days.
Speaking of the long working hours for interns, the senior doctor said this was necessary because their large numbers meant that they tended to get less exposure to a doctor’s duties.
“If they want exposure and experience, they have to work long hours,” he said. “But this is a journey a houseman must go through. Doctors make life and death decisions and you must have the knowledge and experience to make those calls.”
He agreed with Ali that interns who couldn’t cope with the pressure would go absent. Because of this, he said, it was good that the government now employed some housemen as contract workers.
Last year, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that from December 2016, some 2,600 medical graduates who couldn’t find placement as interns could work at government hospitals on contract.
A news report in 2014 said about 7,000 students graduated as doctors annually from more than 300 locally and internationally recognised universities but only 5,000 housemanship slots were available each year.
Another doctor who declined to be named agreed that many housemen suffered a culture shock, but he said most of those he had come across could adapt.
“From what I have seen, the problem is isolated,” he said. “I’ve yet to see a houseman being sacked for discipline problems.
“Of course you will have some with an attitude problem. Essentially, housemen are interns and with interns in all industries, you’re going to get some bad interns. But most of those I’ve met are okay.”