Stop The Blame Game: The Urgent Call For A Systemic Overhaul In Malaysian Health Care – Dr Azim Hazizuddin Nasaruddin

Dr Azim Hazizuddin says Malaysia’s health care system is at a crossroads. Extended service hours and outsourcing only offer temporary relief; systemic reform is needed. Individuals within the system must also take personal responsibility for their growth.

In the wake of my recent book launch, “Continue as Planned: A Malaysian Doctor’s 5 Years Chronicle”, I am compelled to reflect on my journey through the Malaysian health care system.

This narrative, woven from the fabric of personal experience and critical observation, marks a pivotal moment to address the ongoing discourse within our health care sector, a discourse echoed in the narratives “The Unspoken Reality of Long Waiting Times in Public Hospitals,” and “The Real Demotivation of Junior Doctors,” serves as a clarion call for an urgent, comprehensive overhaul.

The Crossroads Of Our Health Care System

Reflecting on our health care system, which I hold in high regard for its accessibility and affordability, it’s evident that we are at a pivotal juncture.

The increasing prevalence of diseases, patient loads, and the alarming shortage of not only medical officers, but also, and (more alarmingly) nurses, are signs and symptoms of the urgent need for a major overhaul. 

The efforts to mitigate these pressures through extended service hours and outsourcing only offer temporary relief. The inevitability of multiple organ failure is evident as death approaches. 

As I step away from the Ministry of Health (MOH), it has become evident that the issues are multifaceted, involving not just the MOH, but various stakeholders, indicating a complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions beyond simple blame. 

A deeper and systemic reform is necessary, moving beyond piecemeal solutions to address the multifaceted nature of these challenges. It’s a journey that requires acknowledging not just the MOH’s role, but also the interconnected responsibility of all stakeholders in the health care ecosystem.

A Call For Personal Responsibility And Resilience

Having witnessed firsthand the demoralisation of junior doctors due to systemic issues like bullying, inadequate training, and poor compensation, it’s clear that systemic change is necessary.

However, it’s also crucial for individuals within the system to take personal responsibility for their growth and well-being. 

The mantra “if you’re unhappy, leave” may seem harsh, but it’s a call for empowerment to seek better environments or create a positive mindset within existing ones. 

It is a testament to the resilience required to navigate and ultimately transcend these challenges, embodying a commitment to self-improvement and systemic advocacy.

Reducing Expectations But Not Standards

The journey through medicine is fraught with challenges, including toxic work environments and the daunting path to specialisation. 

Reducing expectations does not imply settling for less but rather adjusting to the realities of a competitive and demanding field. It underscores the importance of resilience, hard work, and the relentless pursuit of excellence, hallmarks of those dedicated to the medical profession.

The Importance Of Teaching And Mentorship

Medicine is as much about passing on knowledge as it is about healing. 

The generosity and passion for teaching exhibited by many great Specialists and Consultants I’ve encountered are what truly embody the altruistic spirit of the medical profession. 

This tradition of mentorship must be preserved and nurtured, and is crucial not only for the advancement of health care, but serves as a beacon that guides the future of medical practice.

The Essence Of ‘Continue As Planned’

The phrase ‘Continue as planned’ resonates deeply with us medical officers, marking the conclusion of every medical management strategy we devise.

Yet, there comes a moment when we must question the efficacy of age-old plans and consider crafting new strategies that reflect current realities. 

The need for a comprehensive overhaul of our health care system is undeniable, underscored by the recent adoption of the Health White Paper (HWP) by Parliament in June 2023. 

The persistent dissatisfaction among doctors regarding their future, often stemming from a lack of awareness about the HWP and the evolving direction of health care, calls for a re-evaluation of career plans with informed understanding. 

Stories of the harsh working environment and toxic culture of the Malaysian medical line have been told like horror stories around campfire since before I entered medical school till today, two years post #exitkkm. 

Culture is hard to change. Efforts to revert to previous practices for securing positions in Master’s programmes or pension benefits under the guise of permanent positions have become futile in the face of the contract doctor programme initiated eight years ago. 

The mantra “Continue as planned” from bygone days no longer holds; the crossroads between staying or leaving is upon us. The fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of leaving government service hold many medical officers back, leaving them mired in frustration. 

As someone who has left and is now enjoying life, I want to assure you that it’s perfectly okay. The future is uncertain for all of us, but with hard work and faith, you hold the keys to your own success or failure. 

Forge your own path and embrace your personal journey with the mantra “Continue as planned” – but make sure it’s your plan this time.

P.S. Get your copy of my book, “Continue as Planned: A Malaysian Doctor’s 5-Years Chronicle”, now by clicking here to buy a physical copy or here for a copy on Amazon Kindle.

Dr Azim Hazizuddin Nasaruddin is the Head of Medical at the National Kidney Foundation Malaysia. This op-ed is the writer’s own personal opinion and not of the organisation.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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