Sarawak Has 1.5 Times Fewer Doctors Per Population Than Nationwide Malaysia

Sarawak has 421 medical specialists in the public sector, a 60% increase from 2015 with 263 specialists, according to Dr Adham Baba.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — Sarawak’s doctor-to-population ratio improved to 1:682 in 2019, but the distribution of medical practitioners in the rural state is 1.5 times smaller than Malaysia’s nationwide 1:454 ratio.

“The ratio of medical officers (public and private) to the population of Sarawak in 2019 is 1:682, as compared to 1:979 in 2015,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said in his written Dewan Negara reply on September 10 to Senator Zaiedi Suhaili (PBB).

“To further reduce the gap in the ratio, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is planning to place at least 100 more permanent officers and 50 contract officers to meet the need in health facilities in Sarawak this year.”

Zaiedi had asked the health minister to state the number of medical specialists that have been placed in health facilities in Sarawak and to state the extent of the government’s efforts to reduce the doctor-to-patient ratio in Sarawak.

As of June 30 this year, Dr Adham said there are a total of 421 medical specialists working in the public sector in Sarawak, an increase of 60 per cent from 2015 with 263 medical specialists. Besides that, he also said three contract specialists, 2,001 permanent medical officers, and 920 contract medical officers are working in the public sector in Sarawak.

Last month, during a Dewan Rakyat session, Dr Adham announced that as of June 30 this year, Malaysia has 71,041 medical doctors in the public and private sectors, equivalent to one doctor for every 454 people. Of these, 73 per cent, or 51,912 doctors, are working in the Ministry of Health (MOH).

He also said Malaysia has a sufficient number of health care workers with a ratio of one staff (comprising doctors and nurses) to 186 people, which is better than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 1:225 goal.

Dr Adham, in his September 10 parliamentary reply, also stated the various incentives provided by MOH to attract medical officers to serve in Sarawak, as below:

  • Payment of Insentif Wilayah (District Incentive) for officers in Sarawak at a rate of 12.5 to 25 per cent of their monthly salary.
  • Payment of Insentif Mengikut Lokasi dan Tahap Kesusahan (BIMLTK) [Incentive According to Location and Hardship Level) for medical officers serving in approved health facilities in rural areas.
  • Payment of Insentif Pedalaman (Interior Incentive) for officers in Sarawak at a rate of 10 per cent of their monthly salary.
  • Payment of Insentif Pakar Perubatan (Medical Specialist Incentive).
  • Payment of Insentif Penempatan Pakar Perubatan (Medical Specialist Placement Incentive).

Besides that, Dr Adham also mentioned that MOH has tried to improve services for the public through cluster hospitals, whereby facilities are shared between hospitals for medical specialists and medical officers to treat patients within the clustered hospitals.

“In the meantime, MOH also improved services to citizens, especially in specialist services, including implementing visiting specialists for medical specialists to provide treatment to the surrounding population in rural areas,” the health minister said.

In another written parliamentary reply, Dr Adham told the Dewan Negara that less than half of government doctors and dentists working in permanent positions in Sarawak, as of June 30, are Sarawakians. He said that only 36.5 per cent (884 people) of 2,422 permanent medical officers and medical specialists in the state are Sarawakians, while only 43.2 per cent (120 people) of 278 permanent dental officers and dental specialists serving Sarawak are Sarawakians.

Deputy Health Minister II Aaron Ago Dagang, who is Kanowit MP from Sarawak, told a forum last Tuesday that doctors are quite reluctant to go and serve clinics and hospitals in rural areas, while also stating that the environment is not conducive for living, as those areas don’t have suitable quarters for doctors.

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