Ceasefire Now In Parallel Pathway War — Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran

Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran calls for a ceasefire in the Parallel Pathway War, suggesting, if needed, maxing training capacity for local Masters programmes and improving parallel pathway quality. “We should be thinking win-win when it comes to health care”.

It has been almost three weeks since the end of the last Parliament sitting. Many bills were debated. Many were highlighted, but nothing has been as seismic as the issue of the future of Parallel Pathway Programme trainees.

All ministries are important. But the Health Ministry is definitely one of the most, if not the most important ministry because it deals with the life and death of our rakyat.

Suffice to say, health care, which is a pure public good, affects the life and livelihood of all Malaysians. There is no substitute for a robust and progressive health care system which continues to serve the needs of our nation as a whole.

One of the questions I raised regarding the Parallel Pathway Programme training has now become a national debate and a tug of war involving the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), as well as the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE).

Granted, there are so many so-called famous eminent personalities who have resorted to mud-slinging and jumping on the bandwagon and stirring senseless and factually incorrect statements from a very narrow-minded point of view, bordering on an almost comical piece which begs the question of their much lauded credentials.

Now, to clear doubt once and for all. I would like to state from an informed point of view that prior to joining politics, I served as a hospital director in the MOH.

I witnessed long waiting lists of patients needing treatment, longer waiting time for operations due to the lack of trained specialists, and poorer outcomes for our patients due to delayed diagnosis and suboptimal treatment.

I felt helpless many times, facing families of relatives who have lost loved ones simply because we could not give safe and timely treatment for their fathers, mothers, and children.

I saw tears in the eyes of my own hospital staff who waited for a heart surgery, as our surgeons were outnumbered by the sheer amount of patients waiting for their Godly hands to reach and treat.

My staff did not survive another day because the surgeon had already been operating 24 hours and just simply could not muster enough energy for another life-saving surgery.

As I stressed in my debate in Dewan Negara, we have about 17,000 registered specialists in the country currently. However, we will need at least double or triple that amount if we are to benchmark against developed countries like Singapore, Japan, United States, Australia etc.

So far, according to the reply from the Higher Education Minister in Dewan Negara recently, local Master programmes have only produced about 7,000 specialist thus far, since they were first introduced in the late 1970s.

Simply put – we have a severe lack of specialists in this country to give optimal and timely care!

We need to act – and we need to act now and fast. The longer we delay specialist training, the more people’s lives will be at stake. Our existing training pathways are simply not enough to meet the rakyat’s needs.

To put it in a nutshell: the demand for specialists is high, but the production of qualified specialists in this country is low!

So who suffers? Well, it can be me or you or worse still, our loved ones.

As we all bicker and point fingers at each other, does it actually solve the problem? Calling surgeons who graduated from Country A or Z as “haram” – when that surgeon actually saved so many of our loved ones whilst forgoing his/ her sleep and family time.

My honest and humble plea: I beg for everyone involved to be less emotional and more rational as the lives of our loved ones are at stake.

We should not be thinking win-lose or lose-win. We should be thinking win-win when it comes to health care.

If local Master programmes need help to meet the trainer to trainee ratio, let’s join hands to make sure we max out their training capacity.

If the standards and quality of the Parallel Pathway Programme are in question, let’s help to ensure that the programme is run with quality at set standards to augment the production of much needed specialists in the country. We need to synergise, not antagonise!

Let’s stop the bickering!

Let’s augment the national Masters Programme and help to expand its training capacity. Let us also recognise the Parallel Pathway programme trainees of world renowned colleges.

If there are any questions of their quality, why don’t we put up additional mechanisms to safeguard the quality of our specialists?

Let us get the best health care delivered in a safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centric manner for our rakyat.

I love Malaysia and I do not want to bear testament to more lives lost, due to the lack of specialists in our beloved country.

Dr RA Lingeshwaran is a senator from the DAP in the Dewan Negara, who served as director of Sungai Bakap Hospital in Penang in 2022.

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