KUALA LUMPUR, August 27 — Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali today defended the contract system for government doctors, saying it has halved the waiting period for medical graduates’ training placements from over a year to six months.
The deputy health minister said the contract system — which was introduced in December 2016 by the then-Barisan Nasional (BN) administration — has enabled young medical graduates to get housemanship slots in the public sector without having to wait for vacancies.
“Don’t look at the contract system as a negative thing,” Dr Noor Azmi said in the Dewan Rakyat during Question Time today.
“There is a lack of hospitals that provide housemanship training amid an oversupply of doctors. Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 medical graduates are produced annually from local and foreign universities, which has caused a delay in providing training placements. We can’t increase new posts as well,” the Bagan Serai MP added.
“When there is a contract system, new medical graduates would not have to wait until there is a vacancy. They can enter the job in a much easier way — by registering with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) dan Public Service Department. Once, they waited for nine months to more than a year to be placed for training. But the contract system has shortened their waiting period to six months,” he added.
The deputy health minister also insisted that the criteria for medical officers’ permanent appointments in the Ministry of Health (MOH) were “strict”, amid calls for a more robust and transparent selection system as contract doctors face potential joblessness with little opportunity for specialisation.
“There are really strict criteria evaluating the performance of these young doctors — a report from the head of department, strict evaluation from the selection committee and also top management, and finally, the case will be brought to SPA (Public Service Commission) for a final evaluation before appointment to a permanent post,” Dr Noor Azmi said, without specifying the criteria.
“So, creating this contract system has actually helped our young people get good jobs in MOH.”Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Deputy Health Minister I
Earlier, Kuala Krai MP Abdul Latiff Abdul Rahman (PAS) had asked the deputy health minister about the future of young contract doctors when they complete their two-year compulsory service, following housemanship that may be completed in three years.
He questioned MOH if it has any plans to create new permanent posts, or permanent positions without pensions. He mentioned that some of those who have studied medicine are now working as teachers.
Dr Noor Azmi replied that the then-BN government had implemented policies since 2015 to control and optimise human resources in the public sector and the size of the civil service, after which MOH implemented in 2016 the contract system for medical officers.
“The government is very concerned and we’re always thinking about how to shorten the waiting period for young people who graduate in medicine. So we must look at this as a good thing,” he told Parliament.
“Job vacancies are important — it depends on how many doctors have retired, moved, or who are not working in the government anymore. This provides vacancies for young doctors to enter.”
Dr Noor Azmi also highlighted MOH’s efforts to shorten the housemanship waiting period for medical graduates through the following approaches:
- Increased the number of graduate training hospitals from 38 in 2009 to 48 in 2019. A total of six more hospitals are being monitored for the implementation of the housemanship programme.
- Collaborate with the consortium of public university hospitals to increase housemanship slots at university hospitals such as PPUM (University Malaya Medical Centre), HUKM (Hospital UKM) and HUSM (Hospital USM) — up to 950 slots to accommodate the placement of UD41 grade house officers to undergo housemanship.
- Housemanship slots have been increased from 10,835 in 2013 to 12,153 currently.
- Enhance specialist services in existing hospitals through the placement of new and existing specialists to enable them to be supervisors of house officers.
“Apart from these measures, the government through the Ministry of Higher Education has implemented a moratorium on the offering of new medical courses in higher education institutes in the country from 2011 to 2021. The moratorium might be extended for another five years until 2026,” Dr Noor Azmi said.
The moratorium covers the following three aspects:
- No additional new medical colleges or universities.
- No additional new medical programmes.
- No increase in the quota of medical students.
Earlier, Padang Serai MP Karupaiya Mutusami (PKR) had asked MOH to state the plan, as promised by PH’s 14th general election manifesto, to solve the problem faced by younger doctors or housemen who have to wait too long for posting.
He also emphasised the important role of young doctors who served during the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
“During Covid-19, MOH mobilised hospital staff like doctors, nurses and medical assistants. Young doctors who have completed their training were also mobilised to much needed places to combat Covid-19 problems,” Dr Noor Azmi stated.
At the same time, Gopeng MP and former Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye also questioned MOH’s plans to shorten the 24-month housemanship period to accommodate more young medical graduates, noting that when he and Dr Azmi both were trainee doctors, their housemanship was only a year long.
“The government intends to ensure the quality of doctors. We have 31 medical institutions in the country. We have many doctors who have graduated from foreign countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, and other countries which are accredited by the country.
“So we have to maintain the quality of the doctors and that is why the government sets 24 months for housemanship,” Dr Noor Azmi mentioned.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba recently told Parliament that a total of 1,335 medical graduates have yet to receive a placement for their training, eight months after approval by SPA on December 7 last year.
He also revealed that only 3.3 per cent, or 665 doctors, of 19,909 contract medical officers were given permanent positions in the public sector as of July 31 this year.