Minister Fahmi: Government Must Tackle Medical Brain Drain

Comms Minister Fahmi Fadzil says the government must prioritise addressing brain drain in medicine, noting that contract doctor resignations spiked 1,131% from 2017 to 2022. “The first step to addressing any challenge is to acknowledge that there is one.”

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 – Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has affirmed the government’s commitment to combat brain drain within the health care sector.

The Lembah Pantai MP from PKR said the brain drain rate in the medical field was “no different” than the national brain drain average rate of 5.5 per cent, which is significantly higher than the global average.

“This government needs to prioritise addressing the brain drain in Malaysia’s health care industry to ensure that citizens have access to high quality health care services.

“This can be achieved through targeted investments, career advancement opportunities, and addressing political and economic instability,” Fahmi said in his speech via video recording at the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) Doctors’ Day 2023 celebration yesterday.

In February, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa told the Dewan Rakyat that resignations among contract doctors jumped by a whopping 1,131 per cent in the last five years from 110 resignations in 2017 to 1,354 in 2022.

Last year, Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, the former dean of University of Malaya’s (UM) medical faculty, revealed that UM loses 30 top medical graduates to Singapore annually.

Dr Adeeba had said this in response to CodeBlue’s December 2022 report that highlighted critically ill patients waiting up to six days in Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital’s emergency department due to a lack of critical care beds and staff.

In his video for MMA’s Doctors’ Day 2023 celebration, Fahmi cited both Dr Adeeba’s comments on brain drain of medical graduates and the Ministry of Health (MOH) statistics on the resignations of contract medical officers over the past five years.

“Now, the first step to addressing any challenge is to acknowledge that there is one. On that, we can all agree. As to the solution to stem this brain drain, of course it requires political will,” Fahmi said.

Dr Zaliha told Parliament last week that the MOH would continue studying the issue of brain drain from the public health service.

Fahmi reiterated the government’s stance that there will be a shift in all policy matters from race-based governance to one that is needs-based, which would grant every Malaysian the opportunity to realise their fullest potential.

“Fundamental to achieving this will be instituting reforms in our education system, and the equitable disbursement of scholarships for all places to remain invested in rebuilding our nation.

“Reversing this brain drain requires reversing imbalance policy practice in higher educational and employment opportunities,” Fahmi said.

The communications and digital minister said the government is also committed to putting an end to corruption and cronyism, which will translate to stemming the brain drain in the long-term by making Malaysia more attractive as an investment hub.

He added that the civil service needs to be incentivised to bring their best game to the table in order to propel Malaysia to world-class status. “Heads of services must be made to be more accountable when achieving desired targets.”

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