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Trainee doctor in Malaysia grilled by supervisor for taking sick leave following asthma attack

A Malaysian trainee doctor took to Twitter to vent her frustration after being reprimanded by her head of department (HOD) for taking sick leave due to an asthma attack.

The incident triggered conversations about the treatment of doctors within Malaysia’s public hospitals, with certain individuals criticizing the HOD’s response for lacking empathy.



MALAYSIA: A trainee doctor expressed her grievances on Twitter regarding a reprimand she received from her supervisor, who is also the head of the department (HOD).

This reprimand stemmed from her decision to take a sick day due to an asthma attack.

In response, the HOD remarked, “if you do not know how to treat your own asthma, how are you going to treat patients?”.

Upon notifying her HOD about her absence due to illness, she was met with insensitive comments, leaving her surprised and disheartened.

Rather than receiving understanding, she was criticized for not prioritizing her health.

In a tweet accompanied by a screenshot of her WhatsApp conversation with the HOD, she wrote,  ”I had an asthma attack and was too sick to go into work today and this is my HOD’s reaction when I informed her of it. Housemanship is legit abusive (abuse) and feels like slavery.”

In a comment on her post, the trainee doctor mentioned that she hadn’t had an asthma attack in three years. This context explained her choice to use MDI salbutamol to manage her asthma, as opposed to inhaled corticosteroids.

Diverse reactions to trainee doctor’s tweet

The online community was buzzing with a diverse range of responses prior to the tweet being made private.

The trainee doctor’s tweet, posted under the handle @Agent_Twig on Thursday (3 Aug), was subsequently shared by the Contract Doctors’ Group, known as Hartal Doktor Kontrak, on their Twitter account.

One user defended the HOD’s perspective, stating that asthma shouldn’t warrant a medical certificate (MC).

Drawing from personal experience as an individual with asthma, he explained that during his own asthma attacks, he would head to the asthma bay, administer a nebulizer to himself, and continue working.

On a different note, another comment highlighted the perceived lack of camaraderie among doctors within hospital settings.

Expressing a more cautionary sentiment, someone emphasized that doctors are human beings as well. He argued that unwell doctors should not be in close contact with patients, nor should they attempt to self-treat.

Yet another Twitter user shed light on the challenges faced by doctors. He lamented that doctors cannot afford to fall ill, spend time with their families, or even cover their bills due to the inadequately low wages in relation to their demanding workload.

Contract doctors in Malaysia demanding for better employment terms in recent years

Malaysia’s contract doctors have been advocating for improved employment terms, job security, and enhanced working conditions. In recent years, they have resorted to strikes and protests as part of their ongoing efforts.

On 26 July 2021, a group of junior contract doctors launched the “Hartal Doktor Kontrak” movement, demanding job security and better working conditions.

As of March 2023, a coalition of Malaysian doctors revealed that over 8,000 contract doctors participated in protests against an inequitable system and inadequate wages.

Their demands encompass the absorption of all contract medical officers into permanent positions, a rise in medical officer (MO) basic salaries and on-call rates, and a reduction in working and on-call hours for both MOs and medical officer graduates.

In April of this year, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim disclosed the government’s strategy to transition a total of 12,800 contract doctors into permanent positions over the ensuing three years.

Additionally, the Prime Minister committed to extending allowances for medical officers engaged in on-call duties within health clinics, emergency departments, hospitals, and during extended hours.


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If not feeling well

Go get sick leave

Miss diagnosis is high