Private Hospitals Want Foreign Nurses’ Extension Due To Lengthy Hiring

APHM is asking the Health Minister to extend the one-year exemption, beyond Sept 2024, of the post basic qualification requirement for foreign-trained nurses to work in private hospitals. Some candidates are only sitting for Nursing Board exams this month.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 – Private hospitals are seeking an extension to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) one-year exemption post basic qualification requirement for foreign-trained nurses to work in Malaysia, citing a longer-than-expected recruitment process.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Dr Kuljit Singh explained that the recruitment of foreign-trained nurses is taking approximately four to five months due to various factors, both domestic and international. 

“We hope the Minister of Health will extend the one-year period which was granted as we see the process of getting in foreign nurses is a bit complicated and slightly lengthy than what we expected,” Dr Kuljit told CodeBlue when contacted on Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, we are happy some amnesty was granted to have this opportunity to have foreign nurses recruited into private hospitals.”

Dr Kuljit highlighted that the exemption of the post-basic requirement enables private hospitals to consider a larger pool of candidates.

“The support from both MOH and the Immigration Department is encouraging, and we are able to understand and comply with the recruitment process better. We have received some feedback from hospitals that there are candidates going to sit for the Nursing Board exams this month. 

“We hope with the incoming of these foreign nurses, it will ease our shortage temporarily while we too need to strengthen numbers locally,” Dr Kuljit said.

MOH announced a policy last September, more than three months ago, allowing foreign staff nurses to work in Malaysia following complaints from APHM about a severe nursing shortage in private hospitals.

MOH granted a one-year exemption for foreign-trained nurses from the post-basic qualification requirement, effective from October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024, with the possibility of extensions upon re-application and approval.

This exemption broadens the entry of foreign staff nurses beyond the previous restriction that only foreign specialist nurses with post-basic qualifications could work in Malaysia under strict regulation.

However, the post-basic qualification exemption requires foreign staff nurses to sit for the Malaysian Nursing Board Qualification Examination for Foreign Trained Nurses.

The policy also stipulates that foreign-trained nurses cannot comprise more than 40 per cent of the nursing workforce in a private health care facility. The recruitment of foreign-trained nurses must also adhere to terms and conditions set by the Home Ministry (KDN), including salary scale and contract period. 

The Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998, which only applies to private facilities, prohibits private hospitals from opening up beds, unless there are sufficient nurses to staff these beds.

CodeBlue reported earlier this week that a senior nurse suggested hiring foreign-trained nurses from Commonwealth countries, similar to actions taken in the mid-90s, to address the dire nursing shortage that is also affecting the public health service, not just private hospitals.

Internal documents from Health director-general Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan’s meeting last November noted a “significant impact” from the current nurses’ shortage in the MOH and insufficiency of nursing graduates from both the MOH Training Institute (ILKKM) and private nursing colleges.

As a response, MOH redirected “100 per cent” of its nurses from specialist clinics to wards in government hospitals, excluding those in clinical areas like obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) and paediatrics, replacing nurses in specialist clinics with medical assistants.

The MOH has described the massive nurses’ reassignment as a “strategic mobilisation” or workforce optimisation exercise.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), a doctors’ group, commended MOH’s reassignment of nurses from clinics to wards in government hospitals as a “progressive” move to tackle a nursing shortage and cut the workload in some wards.

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