At the turn of the decade, the Malaysian health system faces a most peculiar paradox. There is an abundance of medical graduates despite a shortage in available medical positions and despite a high demand for medical personnel.
Risible, isn’t it?
The media, alongside letters from the health care industry, have highlighted constantly how there is a current shortage of medical practitioners, and especially specialists.
Overworked and exhausted, forced to endure working 36-hour-shift at times, it is becoming increasingly common that fatigued doctors would drive themselves into a road accident post-call.
Even as Health Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad insisted that the country still needed more doctors, targeting to bring down the doctor-citizen ratio from 1:520 to 1:450, he subsequently admitted on November 8th, 2019 to the failure by the government to fully absorb house officers (HOs) as permanent medical officers (MOs).
In fact, over 16,000 new doctors who completed their housemanship had been offered only contract MO positions while another 1,152 doctors were still left hanging. Ratio 1:520 to 1:450.
Moreover, CodeBlue has also reported that contract MOs also currently face the stifling of their career progression due a government requirement that they must hold a permanent position for three years before permitted to pursue postgraduate specialisation studies; landing the shortfall of specialists in a Catch-22 situation.
Dr Dzulkefly’s argument? He claimed that vacancies are created solely based on the needs of medical facilities. And, there lies the Gordian knot.
Medical vacancies should be created based on the needs of the people, while medical facilities must be built to accommodate that need; not the other way around.
Recently, the contracts of two Sarawakian MOs (who are incidentally also promising specialists) were terminated without any given reason by the Ministry of Health.
It was not until the media and the opposition brought the issue to light that the Pakatan Harapan government hastily reinstated the both of them, but not before its ministers tried, as usual, to redirect the blame.
Distastefully, instead of owning up to their own mess, PH Sarawak Chairman and Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen blamed the state minister for not being more watchful about the expiry dates of the MOs’ contracts.
Many in the medical fraternity are unhappy with the government, and rightly so. Not only are new doctors denied the prospect of a stable career in a market that dictates otherwise, they are treated poorly by a government which nearly gutted the critical allowances and terminates unreasonably.
Dr Mah Hang Soon is MCA deputy president.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.