MQA Must Warn MOH Over ‘Non-Compliant’ Parallel Pathway: Professors’ Group

The Group of Professors of Health and Medicine urges MQA to issue a warning to MOH over the allegedly non-compliant parallel pathway programmes, citing Section 96 and 97 of the MQA Act. The group also demands the suspension of new parallel pathway intakes.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — A professors’ group has urged the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to issue a formal warning to the Ministry of Health (MOH) over the allegedly non-compliant parallel pathway programmes.

Prof Dr Noor Hassim Ismail, head of the Group of Professors of Health and Medicine, cited Sections 96 and 97 of the MQA Act 2007.

Section 96 prohibits the enrolment of students for a programme claimed to be an accredited programme without a certificate, punishable upon conviction with a fine not exceeding RM100,000, imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

Section 97 prohibits advertisement or promotion as a higher education provider providing accredited programmes or granting accredited qualifications, or promotion of a programme as an accredited programme, unless the higher education provider or the programme is accredited under the MQA Act. Contraventions are liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding RM200,000, imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both.

“The role of the legal department of MQA is to enforce the summons to MOH because of non-compliance,” Dr Noor Hassim told CodeBlue yesterday.

“It’s very rare for a government body to enforce the law on another government body, but the least MQA should do is to issue a warning or advice to MOH. MQA has legal provisions for which they can bring non-compliance to court.”

He listed 19 parallel pathway programmes by the MOH with foreign institutions: anaesthesia, ENT, family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, neurosurgery, O&G, ophthalmology, orthopaedic, paediatric, paediatric surgery, psychiatry, radiology, emergency, forensic medicine, urology, cardiothoracic surgery, oncology, and pathology,

“The 14 to 18 parallel pathways run by the MOH do not have proper quality assurance,” Dr Noor Hassim claimed.

“MQA under the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) is a custodian and has the legal power to ensure that all higher education providers comply with it.”

He stressed that the problem was not with parallel pathway graduates who were registered as specialist doctors before the 2012 amendment of the Medical Act 1971 came into force in 2017, but rather current trainees or graduates who are not yet registered on the National Specialist Register (NSR).

Suspend New Parallel Pathway Intakes, Transfer Trainees To Existing Local Programmes Or Create New Local Programmes

The Group of Professors of Health and Medicine called for the immediate suspension of new intakes of all parallel pathway programmes.

For specialties with existing clinical specialty programmes in local universities, the professors’ group suggested one-off transfers of parallel pathway trainees to those local programmes, based on curriculum mapping.

For specialties without existing local postgraduate programmes, the MOHE can instruct public universities to join forces with specialists in the MOH and private sector to set up such programmes.

“Specialists in MOH can work with public and private universities to run clinical specialty training programmes in public universities and MOH facilities for mutual benefit,” said the Group of Professors of Health and Medicine in a two-page policy brief titled “Clinical Specialist Training Programmes in Malaysia”.

It also suggested that the Public Service Department (JPA) stop providing scholarships for medical specialty training programmes that are not compliant with national laws and regulations.

“The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) must ensure that the NSR and specialisation in Malaysia are only for local and foreign programmes that comply with the law.”

The professors noted that the parallel pathway programmes – which have been run by the MOH and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) with mostly educational institutions in the United Kingdom for years – did not undergo MQA accreditation or fulfil requirements under the Malaysian Qualifications Framework.

The syllabus and curriculum of these parallel pathway programmes also differ from the programmes in the home country of the higher education providers, while qualifications from parallel pathway programmes are not recognised in the home country of the foreign institutions, alleged the Group of Professors of Health and Medicine.

The medical fraternities running the parallel pathways are not registered higher education providers either. Such programmes were allowed to develop without monitoring and audits from the relevant authorities, the group claimed. AMM is a society registered under the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

“If this isn’t stopped but is allowed to continue, it will cause implications like incomplete specialist training, especially parallel programmes that do not mandate a scope on research, publications, and presentations,” said the Group of Professors of Health and Medicine.

The group added that allowing the continuation of parallel pathway programmes would cause uncontrollable financial outflows out of the country and to foreign colleges, due to allegedly large fees.

For the first time, the government acknowledged last Wednesday the role of the MQA in the parallel pathway conflict. After a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday that saw a briefing by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on the parallel pathway issue, Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir said a proposal paper (kertas cadangan) would be tabled in Cabinet on June 5. A kertas cadangan is not the same as a Cabinet memorandum that would require action.

Of the various parallel pathway programmes, cardiothoracic surgery has received the most media attention, due to MMC’s refusal last December to register at least four pioneer graduates as specialists on the NSR due to non-recognition of their Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery qualification.

Proponents defend the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme on the basis that it is “quality assured” by its own provider, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

They also perceive the existence of the UK General Medical Council’s (GMC) portfolio route to specialist registration in the UK as “recognition” of the FRCS Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery, even though the portfolio route does not mandate any exam whatsoever for applicants and decisions for specialist registration are made on a case-by-case basis.

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