KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Contract medical officers can finance their own specialist study and go abroad as they’re currently not eligible for a government scholarship, Dr Adham Baba said.
The health minister told Tangga Batu MP Rusnah Aluai (PKR) in a written Parliament reply dated July 13 that currently, 23,928 permanent medical officers have not yet pursued specialist study, with the Ministry of Health (MOH) considering this amount suitable for the number of extra specialists it needs.
“Although contract medical officers are not eligible to be offered the Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP) at this time, they can still further their specialist study through self-financing or outside sponsorship and further their studies abroad,” Dr Adham said in the Dewan Rakyat.
“This can indirectly contribute to an increase of specialists for the country.”
The HLP, a full scholarship by MOH for doctors to pursue specialisation in public universities while working, is only available to permanent medical officers.
Rusnah had asked the health minister if MOH’s contract policy would affect junior doctors’ chances of furthering specialist study and subsequently reduce the number of specialist doctors in future.
According to Dr Adham, as of March 31 this year, there were a total of 5,322 specialist medical officers nationwide, with an increase of 797 specialists, or 15 percentage points, compared to 4,525 specialist medical officers as of December 31, 2016.
“In the long term, the government can consider an initiative to increase the number of specialist medical officers through cooperation with the private sector.”
CodeBlue reported previously that 1,500 contract housemen from the third cohort — whose training started in May 2017 — were offered two-year contracts as UD41 medical officers from May 2020 to May 2022 to complete their compulsory government service. MOH’s offer letter stated that this would be their final contract. Not a single doctor from this cohort reportedly received a permanent post in the public sector.
Back in mid-April at the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, the government extended by six months the contracts of government doctors, pharmacists, and dentists whose service ended late last year or is due for termination this year. This triggered outrage among some lawmakers across the divide, like Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii who demanded more permanent solutions to the issue of human resources in the public health care sector.
“To ensure that the country has sufficient specialists and the people have access to specialist services, the Ministry of Health (MOH) gives priority and opportunity to permanent medical officers currently in service to further their studies in specialisation and sub-specialisation,” Dr Adham said in his Parliament reply Monday.
“Officers who fulfill the set criteria and merit can be considered for permanent appointments, subject to vacancy, and they have the opportunity to further their specialist study.”