Feedback: Overworked housemen

We received a message from ‘Overworked housemen’

I would like to highlight that housemen are being overworked in the medical department in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Under the Graduate Medical Officer Flexi Timetable system, introduced last September, housemen can only work up to 60 hours a week with two days off. However, this is not the case in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Housemen are expected to work 7 days a week with NO BREAK AT ALL, only the allocated 8 days every 4 months in each posting (including MC). And we have to do 2-4 on calls duties per week. Those who are not on call, work from 7am-5pm Mon-Fri and 7am-12pm Sat-Sun. However, on call duties are 2-4 times per week. When you are on call, it means you work from 7am today to 5pm the next day. Sometimes the call can be every other day, means you don’t even have time to rest. How can someone work non-stop. We are not robots. And nowadays even domestic maids and foreign labourers have holidays. No mention personal life, social life or family life. If you calculate our wage, we are being paid around RM8-9 per hour, which is much much lesser than what the general public without a university degree is earning. We are using the old system where we do on calls, but we are not getting any extra allowance of RM100-200 per call. We do not have rest days we do not have public holidays. We have studied so hard and would like to train to become a competent doctor in these 2 years, but we really cannot understand why are we being treated so terribly. The Employment Act 1955 (EA) mandates that overtime pay at double the normal wage-rate and triple the normal wage-rate must be paid when employees work on rest days and public holidays, respectively. Where do we stand? It is unfair and too much to expect human beings to work so long hours, It is harmful as 36 hours without sleep is detrimental to health and may cause harm to the patients. We are so tired after working so long hours and cannot think or function properly. This kind of working hours has caused 8 housemen to go MIA in the past month. And a few others are appealing to change hospitals. It is a vicious cycle. There are so many housemen that are having depression and require counseling. So can no longer smile or laugh or be happy. It is so sad and depressing to go to work daily. It is wise to look into these issues to enhance patient safety. May the relevant authority ensure that these public service doctors are happy and capable of providing the best service to the public. I really hope that our lives can be improved.

Dear Overworked Housemen,

I sympathise with your plight. The situation seems almost as bad as when I did my housemanship almost 30 years ago. I would have thought the current glut of housemen would lessen the work burden but perhaps in very busy hospitals like Hospital KL, this might not be the case.

We have recently blogged a fair bit about housemanship but you might want to read these two blog posts:

MMA : job demands long hours
House officer’s survival guide




Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast

6 Comments on “Feedback: Overworked housemen

  1. I was a house officer in HKL and I did exactly those hours in my first posting in the medical department at HKL. It was NEVER a dread. I loved the work and I believe I say the same for my colleagues but we had the most fun in medical wards. We bonded so much together and even though the hours were grueling, we learnt so much from our nice bosses and became quite competent. In fact we were proud to say we graduated from HKL when compared to housemen who came from other hospitals.

    Overworked, get over it. You signed up to be a doctor and this is the work it requires. Your job is to serve the sick not to serve yourself.

  2. I was in HKL for my housemanship almost 12 years ago and the situation was the same as stated by the’overworked housemen’. Although a few tears were shed during those days… if given the chance to do HO again… HKL would be my first choice. Enough said.

  3. I was a houseoffice 10 years ago. We were only paid Rm 20 for the the on call and none of us complained at all as we took it as a challenge to be a good doctor. RM 20 was a compliment. There were only 2 -3 doctors in a ward taking care of the 50-70 patients. If the author aimed to get a better pay, please change job. On call is never a mean to get good money.

    Sadly, the new generation only wants good life, good pay, prestige and has forgotten about the real meaning of practicing medicine.

    My advise to the author and those new housemen is: if you can’t handle the stress and hardship as a house officer, you will never be a good doctor in future. If you only want good life, please find another job.

  4. so,what’s new…?I had the same experience..had fun too because everybody also ‘suffer’ the same routine,you are not the only one..oddly,we still make some time to go for dinner before continuing work after 5pm (FYI ‘overwork houseman’;we didn’t work until 5pm the next day when we are oncall…we work until 8-9pm the next day (we have to finish our job before go back-if patient admitted at 4.30pm,it’s a miracle if you can settle the case by 5pm)

    MOst of us after 4th posting are already trusted to become the Junior MO,no need to wait 2 years..This lot nowadays..even after 6th posting,the HODs still have to babysit them (I know,I was a HO-babysitter during my MO time –my HOD already threw in the towel by that time..)

    So,overworked houseman – GROW UP

  5. RM8-9 per hour, is more than what one makes in KFC.

    if you are in for the money, don’t be a doctor