Parallel Pathway: Cabinet Memo On Bill Expected Soon, Parliament Tabling Date Uncertain

Fahmi Fadzil says today’s Cabinet meeting made a decision on the parallel pathway issue, but another Cabinet memo on the bill itself, which he didn’t specify, is expected soon. He adds the bill may be tabled in an upcoming or subsequent Parliament meeting.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — Today’s Cabinet meeting reached a resolution to the conflict over the parallel pathway for medical specialty training, with the government deciding to table a bill in Parliament.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, who is also the government spokesman, said the Cabinet decision was reached after a joint Cabinet memorandum was tabled by Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad and Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir today.

However, Fahmi said the government is also expecting another Cabinet memorandum in the next two weeks on the amendment bill itself – either by Dzulkefly or Zambry, or a joint one by both – which he did not specify.

“We hope, if all goes well, that it will be brought to Parliament, whether in the coming meeting or after that,” Fahmi told his weekly post-Cabinet press conference today.

“Like what I said last week, the main issue is the jurisdiction between two bodies: MQA (Malaysian Qualifications Agency) and MMC (Malaysian Medical Council). What will be tabled is meant to unpack this problem. 

“The issue is between the two agencies. If we bring the amendment to Parliament, it will help to resolve the matter.”

The upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting is scheduled for four weeks from June 24. The third and final meeting for the year is scheduled from October 7.

Dzulkefly previously announced plans to table amendments to the Medical Act 1971, after the MMC rejected applications by four pioneer graduates of the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme to register as specialists on the National Specialist Register (NSR), on the basis of non-recognition of their FRCS Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery qualification.

However, Fahmi’s remarks today and last week – when the government spokesman reiterated the conflicting jurisdictions between the MQA and MMC over medical specialty training or education – indicate that resolving the parallel pathway issue may not be so straightforward as amending only one Act.

If amending only the Medical Act was required, there would be no legislative role whatsoever for the higher education minister or the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), as the Medical Act is under the sole jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health (MOH).

However, if amendments to the MQA Act 2007 are required, that falls under the sole jurisdiction of the higher education minister or MOHE.

If two amendments bills for the Medical Act and the MQA Act were to be tabled in Parliament to achieve a common objective in the parallel pathway issue, that means two entirely separate legislative processes – led by two different ministers – in the short upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting that is scheduled only for four weeks.

This would also require stakeholder engagements by two different ministries with two different groups: the medical profession and university professors, and their respective regulators, the MMC and MQA.

Based on social media posts by Dzulkefly and Zambry, it appears that the health and higher education ministers have done very little stakeholder engagement with both advocates and opponents of the parallel pathway in the past few months, except for the health minister’s frequent meetings with parallel pathway proponents.

In contrast, lawmaking for the country’s first tobacco control standalone Act – arguably a much simpler issue than medical specialty training – saw countless stakeholder engagement meetings over two years, including with representatives from the tobacco and vape industries.

CodeBlue has reached Dzulkefly’s and Zambry’s offices for details on the outcome of today’s Cabinet meeting. 

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