Medical housemen (HO) will no longer work 16 hours continuously after their normal eight hours with the implementation of a flexible schedule. This is based on a circular dated January 3 by the Ministry of Health (MOH). With this initiative, it appears good for them especially when we talk about a conducive working environment and quality of service for patients. Previously, all the housemen were required to work continuously 32 hours, eight hours for normal working hours followed by 16 hours overnight and another eight hours the next day.
To standardize the system, the hospital directors and department heads must ensure that the total average working hours was 60 hours per week for every posting, but not exceed 72 hours. The benefits of flexi-schedule is arranged to give so called ‘protected time’ for HO to do Continuous Medical Education (CME) and Continuous Professional Development (CPD), whether in hospitals or at the department level. This circular however, does not discount the importance of having HO to perform hands-on procedures while under the supervision of a specialist or medical officer. They must also involve in the grand round, teaching rounds, CME, operation theatre and day care services for maximum exposure to be adequately trained and competent.
I still remember during my HO training back in the late 90’s, we used to do on-call every other day (EOD) throughout the posting. In fact, I used to work 3-day in a row which covers almost 56 hours! Obviously, we did not question much about physically stress as well as mentally stress over the period of training. This is because we had been pre-empted with this form of ‘suffering period’ for the sake of being a competent doctor! On the brighter side, what we had learned in such situation was that the doctor of our (my) generation must be strong, tough and mentally equipped with positive attitude and mind. We don’t mind to be working in that system though we found that the system was pretty unfair and we suffered very much both emotionally and mentally too. We had been paid for RM20 per night call and no different if you were on-call over the weekend or public holiday. Money as a compensation was not an issue at that time. With positive attitude, we wanted to learn fast, perform the task well and equip ourselves with all the necessary skills in order to be a competent doctor. We had been trained to be tough! I found that the training was good for me, ummah and da’wah too.
Back to the new flexi-schedule or working hour, I am pretty sure that the new set of doctors today would appreciate tremendously this system. Thus, the doctors or HOs today have more time with kids, family, and not to forget more time and occasion with neighbour, community and ummah. For Muslim doctors/HOs, this is a big opportunity for you to grab and to be with them in ‘physically’ present. Please don’t stop only for that purpose! As a doctor we have a prime duty to propagate what Muslim should be doing. A Muslim doctor is a doctor that professes Islam and also engaged and understand well his basic role as a doctor especially to a Muslim community. This is however, does not limit our duty to serve general public which consists of non-Muslim.
We have public responsibility as Allah mentioned in the Qur’an:
“Believers are brethren” (verse 49:10).
Allah also says:
“And hold fast all of you together to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember Allah’s favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts together, so that by His Grace you become brethren…” (Quran 3:103).
The implication is that the Muslim doctor is a member in a Muslim and Non-Muslim community where the healthy body of the individual is crucial for its survival and development. The doctor has a big say and great weight in influencing his patients and healthy community by righteously guiding their orientation. The lesser time spend in hospital will somehow give more opportunity for a doctor to understand healthy people out there. A Muslim doctor can behave all the time in accordance with his Islamic beliefs. We can declare our own conviction, and to be proud of our status as a professional and Muslim doctor. Thus doctor can be a good model for others to win their confidence and hearts especially when we professionally treat our patient and advice individual whom out of ‘hospital boundary’. Doctors have a ‘divine role’ to spread the beauty of Islam to community. In other word, a doctor has a duty as a daei illallah.
In summary, the role of the Muslim doctor is briefly to place his profession in service of his religion and to spread the attractiveness of Islam both for in-patients and individuals in community. To this end, he must know both his skill and knowledge in medicine and basic principle/tenets as a Muslim. With this implementation of flexi-working hours for HO, more time available, thus more engagement and interaction could happen with ummah and propagate da’wah. Why a doctor should do this? Because we assertively know that Allah asks us to perform this duty…..
By Assoc. Prof. Dr Azizi Ayob
Chairman of I-Medik Selangor/Wilayah Persekutuan