University Opposition Swells Against Amending Medical Act For Parallel Pathway

The Group of Professors of Health and Medicine opposes amending the Medical Act, suggesting instead that graduates and trainees of MOH’s international parallel pathway be absorbed into local university programmes via credit transfer for NSR registration.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Local university professors have protested against proposed amendments to the Medical Act 1971 that aim to recognise the parallel pathway training for specialisation in medicine.

Prof Dr Noor Hassim Ismail, head of the Group of Professors of Health and Medicine, suggested that graduates of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) parallel pathway programmes with overseas royal colleges can be absorbed into local programmes by Malaysian universities through a credit transfer process or curriculum mapping instead, under current laws.

“Thus, after undergoing the training, they will be awarded with a qualification registered in MQR (Malaysian Qualification Register) and eligible to be registered as a Specialist in the Malaysian Medical Council’s (MMC) National Specialist Register (NSR),” Dr Noor Hassim said in a statement.

“For trainees who are still in the study system, they can be transferred to a local university programme through the same process as well. It is apparent that the dilemma faced by these graduates of the parallel pathway can be resolved without the need to amend the Act.

“Thus, we are unclear on the merit in amending this Act to accommodate the registration of the victims of the parallel pathway programmes, as there are laws and procedures that can resolve this issue.”

Dr Noor Hassim – who is also a lecturer at UKM Medical Centre, according to his LinkedIn profile – stressed that parallel pathway graduates and trainees are “victims”, alleging that their programmes had been started “without complying to the due process then”.

“There was no attempt by the organisers of the parallel pathway to align with the law when the Medical Act (amended) 2012 came into force on 1st July 2017.”

Dr Noor Hassim explained that before the enforcement of the 2012 amendment of the Medical Act, there was no legal provision for the MMC to register medical specialists. But after July 1, 2017, all specialist qualifications, local and international, must be recognised according to “due process”, as prescribed by the Act.

Last Friday, senior consultant paediatric surgeon Dr Dayang Anita Abdul Aziz told CodeBlue that it was a “huge mistake” to amend the Medical (Amendment) Act 2012 to enable the registration of parallel pathway graduates as specialist doctors on the NSR.

Dr Dayang Anita, who has retired as a Professor of Paediatric Surgery from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), claimed that the “non-accredited” parallel pathway was “not equivalent” to local Master’s programmes.

She questioned whether “safe” specialists are really being produced by the parallel pathway that the government now wants to let in by amending the Medical Act.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad previously said in a statement last April 2 that pending Cabinet approval, he plans to table a Medical Act amendment bill in Parliament in June, assuring parallel pathway graduates that they will be eligible for NSR registration.

The Group of Professors of Health and Medicine noted today that the MOH’s parallel pathway programmes with overseas royal colleges for specialist training currently do not require the various approvals and accreditation imposed on postgraduate programmes by local universities in Malaysia.

“These international programmes also are not being monitored or supervised by the regulatory bodies of their home country,” Dr Noor Hassim said.

“It is clear that these programmes under the parallel pathway are not subjected to approval or monitored by any regulatory body in Malaysia.”

Dr Noor Hassim said currently, nine local universities run 106 medical specialty training programmes that “have undergone continuous improvement and quality assurance for over 40 years”.

He said these university postgraduate training programmes for specialisation in medicine are “quality assured” because they are subject to internal university scrutiny and approval; require approval from the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), while private higher education institutions must be licensed too; and require accreditation by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

These qualifications can then be registered in the MQR. Local postgraduate specialty programmes need to be accredited periodically between three and five years.

“Universities must continue to play an important role as leaders in teaching and learning, in education, research and technology,” said Dr Noor Hassim.

“In teaching activities, universities shall ensure the compliance to standards on professional training for specialty jobs, as well as the education necessary for the development of the personality”.

The Group of Professors of Health and Medicine called for the empowerment of universities:

  1. To become the focus for higher education in medical specialties.
  2. The centre for medical expertise training and research facilities.
  3. The centre for human resource development in the field of medical expertise.
  4. To ensure that the number of trained academic staff are sufficient in each university to run postgraduate programmes.
  5. To make Malaysia a hub for higher medical education, including the recruitment of international students.
  6. To develop expertise towards the development of medical facilities for postgraduate medical education as well as the development of medical research.

Dzulkefly posted on Facebook last March 22 that he met a G70 (Health) Professors’ Association delegation, led by Dr Noor Hassim and Manipal Academy of Higher Education pro vice chancellor Prof Dr Abdul Razzak Mohd Said, to discuss Malaysia’s medical specialist training.

Previously, the National Heart Institute (IJN) and Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) directed cardiothoracic surgery graduates and trainees with the parallel pathway to go to Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) for “accreditation”, after the MMC’s October 2023 meeting rejected NSR registration applications by graduates of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery (FRCS Ed), on the basis that their postgraduate qualification was not recognised.

These parallel pathway graduates and trainees in cardiothoracic surgery working at the cardiac centre owned by the Ministry of Finance and the university hospital respectively were told to apply to UiTM for credit transfer and curriculum mapping, even though UiTM’s cardiothoracic surgery doctorate programme currently only has provisional accreditation from MQA.

UiTM’s cardiothoracic surgery programmes aren’t included in the list of recognised postgraduate qualifications on MMC’s website either.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported earlier today that UMMC’s plans have been put on hold, mainly because of UiTM’s Bumiputera-only policy. UiTM is also reportedly asking for RM100,000 for each trainee to undergo an “unspecified programme” to enable their NSR registration.

Among the eight cardiothoracic surgery trainees and graduates with FRCS Ed who are currently working at IJN as clinical fellows and were told to transfer to UiTM, six are non-Malays.

MMC is now embroiled in at least three court cases after 11 graduates from medical specialist training – both the parallel pathway and a local university postgraduate programme – filed judicial review applications in the High Court here between November 2023 and March 2024 against the regulator’s rejection of their applications to be registered as specialists on the NSR.

In these three cases, MMC rejected their NSR registration applications after refusing to recognise their postgraduate qualifications from the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in cardiothoracic surgery, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in neurosurgery, and the Master of Pathology (Medical Genetics) from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

You may also like