Better Wages, Work Environment Won’t Stop Nurse Brain Drain: Minister

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa says higher wages and better work conditions won’t stop the brain drain of nurses, amid nursing shortages across public & private sectors, as nurse emigration is universal and brain drain also occurs in other professions.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 – Raising wages and improving working conditions will not prevent nurses from emigrating for work overseas, Dr Zaliha Mustafa said, amid nursing shortages in both the public and private sectors.

The health minister said the government is currently conducting a Review of the Public Service Retirement System (SSPA) to review the salaries, incentives, allowances, and benefits of all civil servants, including those in the public health service.

She added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has already provided input for the civil servants’ wage review exercise, including suggestions collected from associations and officers to the Public Service Department (JPA) on improvements of service schemes, salaries, allowances, benefits, and career pathways for all health service schemes.

“The Health Ministry, with support from the central agency, will continue efforts to improve the working environment, incentives, and benefits from time to time,” Dr Zaliha told the Dewan Rakyat in a written reply to Jasin MP Zulkifli Ismail last October 11.

“However, the improvements implemented will not stop nurses from emigrating and working overseas. Nurse emigration is a universal issue; it needs to be looked at in a wider context because this issue also occurs in other professions.”

Zulkifli had asked the health minister about the MOH’s efforts to review nurses’ salary scales amid brain drain to other countries.

Kuala Nerus MP Dr Alias Razak separately asked Dr Zaliha last Wednesday about the MOH’s rationale in allowing foreign trained nurses to work in private hospitals in Malaysia.

Last month, the health minister announced a one-year exemption of the post basic qualification requirement for private health care facilities to hire foreign trained nurses (JTWA), subject to a 40 per cent cap, from October 1 this year to September 30, 2024.

“The nursing shortages in both the public and private sectors have greatly affected health service delivery in this country,” Dr Zaliha said in a written Dewan Rakyat reply.

“The main cause of the nursing shortage was the dive in graduate numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic; this situation did not fulfil the needed demand and offers.

“The recruitment of JTWA will help optimise operations and services at private health care facilities. With this, such facilities will be more prepared in supporting the MOH in filling the people’s health needs through public-private partnership.

“Indirectly, this move will create a positive impact on various economic sectors, like health tourism, that will spur the country’s economic growth.”

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