KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 – Thousands of young doctors may possibly become unemployed or work in unrelated fields, a physician said after the Health Ministry announced that medical officers couldn’t be guaranteed permanent jobs.
“Faced with the reality and the fact that the Ministry of Health cannot indefinitely absorb the continual influx of 5,000 or more newly minted doctors every year, there will certainly be many doctors facing the prospect of no jobs after their compulsory service with the government,” Dr John Teo, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said in an opinion piece.
“It has been estimated that soon perhaps up to half of the annual turnover of doctors may have their contract not renewed or offered a permanent post after the two years of medical officers’ service, in which case they will need to look for jobs in the private sector, universities etc. Many may not really be doctoring jobs.”
Last week, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad announced that medical officers may be on contract during their entire two-year mandatory service with the government if they fail to get a permanent appointment.
Medical graduates can only do their two-year training, or housemanship, in government hospitals, after which medical officers are required by law to serve the government for two years. Only medical officers who hold a permanent position for three years are allowed to study their Master’s to get into specialisation, during which they get paid a regular salary by the Health Ministry. Private hospitals do not provide medical training and they mostly hire specialists.
Dzulkefly told Parliament that contract medical officers who complete their mandatory service in the Health Ministry without getting a permanent position can seek work in other government agencies like public university hospitals, the private sector, and companies like private medical labs and pharmaceutical corporations.
According to Dr Teo, for a population of 32 million, Malaysia has about 34 medical schools producing about 4,000 doctors annually, with more than 1,000 returning from overseas.
Looking at Australia and the United Kingdom with a population of 25 million and 67 million, the number of medical schools there are 21 and 33 respectively, he said, which means that Malaysia may have the highest number of medical schools per population ratio in the world.
Other than that, Dr Teo also mentioned the issue of quality of training in government hospitals, whereby there are not enough training slots, trainers and even patient load for many junior doctors to gain adequate skills and experience.
“Although there is a quality assurance mechanism in place for medical schools and emphasis on acceptable standards, it’s very rare to hear any medical school closing down or even overseas medical schools being derecognised, raising the question whether we are serious in maintaining the standards required,” he opined.
“Ultimately in the end, whatever is done or implemented, we will see a sizeable number of doctors who will eventually find themselves jobless, forced to then move into other industries totally unrelated, so as to earn a decent living, perhaps for the better and some for the worse.”
Dr Teo said the government should act immediately to curb the issue of abundance of medical schools to address overproduction of doctors.
“In reality, it is the government who allowed the mushrooming of medical schools with its massive overproduction of doctors and now it is time for the government once and for all to do the much-needed remedial actions and heal our health care so to speak.”