KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 – Dr Zaliha Mustafa told Parliament today that the government cannot recruit more health care professionals, including doctors, without additional funding, amid reported severe staffing shortages in the public health service.
The health minister was responding to Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii (DAP), who said that the main factor for congestion in public health care facilities was insufficient manpower.
“The problem with positions is not just on MOH’s (Ministry of Health) shoulders, but it must discussed with other agencies, including the JPA (Public Service Department) and MOF (Ministry of Finance),” Dr Zaliha told the Dewan Rakyat during Ministers’ Question Time.
“At MOH, we want to take in all workers and doctors, but if there are no positions and if we don’t have money, then we can’t do it.”
Dr Zaliha also said she would meet with state health directors and hospital directors on February 28, but did not specify when she would meet with health care workers on the ground to hear their complaints.
Several MOH staff have questioned the health minister’s plans to meet with hospital directors, saying that top management tends not to disclose the actual state of their respective facilities.
The federal government’s Budget 2023 is scheduled to be tabled on February 24. Dr Zaliha did not inform Parliament about the specific scale of shortages across different professions in the public health service, in relation to actual needs.
MOH’s latest annual report revealed over 21,000 vacant positions in MOH in 2021, comprising 7.8 per cent of 274,987 available positions.
Dr Zaliha, in her reply to Dr Yii’s question in the House on MOH’s plans to reduce congestion in emergency departments (ED) nationwide, repeated her earlier statements on the matter, namely seven steps to decongest emergency rooms.
The PKR lawmaker described overcrowded emergency departments as a “legacy” issue. She added that outpatient visits at EDs have increased post-pandemic due to increased cases of non-communicable diseases (NCD) and associated complications, but did not provide specific figures.
She also said 70 per cent of cases in EDs are Green Zone (non-critical) cases.