Sunday, December 19, 2010

NST: 90,000 doctors won't cause a glut... By Annie Freeda Cruez

90,000 doctors won't cause a glut

NST, 2010/12/19
By Annie Freeda Cruez

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will continue to pursue its target of 90,000 doctors by 2020 as the move will not cause the country to face a glut of doctors. This aim under the 11th Malaysia Plan is to cater to the projected 35 million population. The target -- a 1:400 doctor to population ratio.

At present, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said there were 30,000 doctors and the ratio was 1:600, not enough to meet the growing challenges and demands.

"The 90,000 doctors the ministry hopes to get by 2020 will be distributed equitably nationwide.
"We foresee a lot of challenges in the years to come and we need a pool of locally and overseas trained specialists.

"The nation needs more family care physicians, geriatricians, oncologists, acute medicine specialists, emergency care physicians, rheumatologists, endocrinologists among others as well as researchers and scientists."

Dr Ismail told the New Sunday Times this following the Malaysian Medical Association's statement that the aim to get 90,000 doctors was "too fast and too soon" and would result not just in a serious glut of doctors but also a possible erosion of standards.

Dr Ismail said with proper distribution and planning, and less interference from various quarters regarding postings, the people would enjoy greater accessibility to specialised health services, both in the rural and urban areas.

He also assured that all newly-qualified medical graduates, both from local and overseas universities, will undergo a two-year strenuous housemanship programme in government hospitals to ensure they are competent.

"Only those who get through the rigorous two-year training period will be absorbed as doctors.

"Those who don't will have their housemanship extended for three months, up to a period of one year, after which he or she may be terminated."

Last year, 20 house officers had their training extended for a year by the Medical Qualifying Board as compared with 141 in 2008, and 103 in 2007.

"We will not comprise on the quality of doctors."

The ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Higher Education on a five-year moratorium for medical colleges as there are already 18 public medical universities and 11 private medical colleges producing more than 3,000 medical graduates annually.

The number of medical graduates produced, both locally and overseas, has increased from 1,049 in 2005 to 3,058 last year.

He said while there were those who complained over the rigorous two-year housemanship, the majority go through the training without kicking up a fuss.

"I've observed that students from certain universities tend to complain more than others and I suspect it is due to them not having the basic core knowledge."

Dr Ismail, however, stressed that he does not condone unhealthy working hours and acrimonious working conditions for house officers.

"I have already issued circulars to all specialists to abide by guidelines issued by the ministry but I still hear doctors complaining that they are working non-stop for 36 hours and this is of great concern to me.

"I need to know why they are made to work such long hours."

He also called on parents to stop interfering with their children's programmes.

"If the house officers have a problem with their programme or their supervisor, then they should voice it to their supervisors or to the hospital director.

"They can even bring the matter to my attention."

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