Dzulkefly: Pending Cabinet Approval, Medical Act Amendment Bill Planned For Upcoming Parliament Meeting

Dr Dzul says that pending Cabinet approval of the Medical Act amendment bill, it will be tabled in the upcoming Parliament meeting to ensure more “regularised” implementation of the parallel pathway and local Master’s programs, promising quality assurance.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The government plans to table amendments to the Medical Act 1971 in the upcoming Parliament meeting, pending Cabinet approval of the bill, Dzulkefly Ahmad announced.

The health minister said a Cabinet meeting yesterday “agreed in principle” to a proposal by him and Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir to amend the Medical Act.

“This proposal is aimed at resolving the issue of the registration of medical doctors who obtained specialist qualifications through the parallel pathway, and to update the process of recognition and registration as medical specialists,” Dzulkefly said in a statement yesterday.

“The Cabinet is aware of the rising need for specialist services in all health care facilities nationwide.

“The parallel pathway implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the medical postgraduate programmes implemented by local higher education institutions are aimed at creating more specialists to fulfil that need.”

Although Dzulkefly did not directly state that the parallel pathway programme is currently “irregular” in terms of the law, the health minister said the proposed Medical Act amendments are aimed to “ensure more regularised implementation of both specialty training pathways”.

“With that, doctors who complete any of the above programmes will be able to be registered as medical specialists in the National Specialist Register (NSR) under the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC). This will immediately resolve all arising issues.”

Dzulkefly posted on X that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is currently reviewing the draft amendment bill.

The health minister, however, did not specify what amendments are being proposed to the Medical Act planned for tabling in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting scheduled in just three weeks from June 24.

Neither did he say if the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) Act 2007, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), would be amended as well.

In a post-Cabinet press conference yesterday, government spokesman Fahmi Fadzil, who is also the communications minister, told reporters that the main issue in the parallel pathway was conflicting jurisdictions between the MQA and MMC.

Section 14B of the Medical Act’s 2012 amendment, which came into effect in 2017, states specialised training in a “recognised training institution” as one of the criteria for a person to be entitled to specialist registration under the Act. Another criterion is holding a “recognised specialist qualification”.

Senior lawyer New Sin Yew previously told The Great Parallel Pathway Debate that a “recognised training institution” refers to a higher education provider, as defined under Section 2 of the MQA Act.

Unlike clinical Master’s programmes by local universities that are already regulated by the MQA – like all other undergraduate or postgraduate programmes beyond medicine – the parallel pathway for medical specialty training was instituted through memorandums of understanding (MOU) between the MOH, medical societies under the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) registered under the Registrar of Societies (RoS), and royal colleges in the United Kingdom.

It is unclear who – among those three parties – holds legal accountability and responsibility for specialist training in the parallel pathway that Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee has described as the “highest form of apprenticeship”.

“The MOH will ensure that the quality of training and services, competence of medical practitioners and specialists, as well as patient safety will continue to be protected when this amendment is made later,” Dzulkefly said, without elaborating further.

Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran, in an immediate reaction to yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, said the proposed Medical Act amendment bill was timely in light of a “massive” shortage of specialist doctors.

“I have been consistent that to produce more specialists is the goal of the government of the day,” the DAP lawmaker said in a statement.

“The strategy will be to augment the local Master’s programme, recognise the parallel pathway, and find a good balanced solution to have an equivalency for specialists of Malaysian origin who are practising abroad to return home to serve the rakyat.

“The immediate move would be the recognition of the parallel pathway and we should be easing the nation’s need for specialists quickly.”

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