The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) recently laid out the figures amidst the heated debate regarding the backlog of housemen in the county. According to them, the housemanship training programme is still under control as the government can employ up to 5,300 new housemen annually.

Waiting time differs between local and overseas graduates

Roughly 6,000 medical students graduate from local and foreign universities each year. Out of these students, majority were able to obtain postings, said Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran.

“Some 4,300 doctors graduate from local medical schools while the rest are from abroad. The situation is not that bad and we still have places for them,” he said in response to the recent Malaysian Medical Association (MMA)’s concerns.

Jeyaindran stated that local university graduates only need to wait for an average of 3 months for a posting. He continued, “Only those who graduate from foreign universities have to wait longer.”

Impose restriction on student intakes

“The greatest challenge today is the increasing number of medical graduates. This is due to the short-sighted policy of approving too many medical colleges, despite the limited capacity to employ them,” emphasised Dr Ravindran R. Naidu, the newly-elected president of Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

Ravindran urged private medical colleges to restrict their student intake to curb the growing issue of an oversupply of doctors. He added that simply imposing a moratorium on the new medical universities was not sufficient. On top of all of this, Ravindran said the future looked uncertain and miserable for fresh medical graduates due to the waiting period of 8 months, or more for government employment.

When discussing the government’s move to implement a 4-year contractual basis in the hiring of new doctors, Ravindran explained that the lack of guarantee of them receiving permanent job offers after that was depressing. “My question is, what is going to happen after the four years? I just cannot imagine the consequences if after four years they all start private practice,” he said.

Currently, there are about 38,000 doctors practising in the country. Ravindran relayed the MMA’s concerns regarding the potential compromise in the quality and standard of medical education with the presence of this many medical colleges. This further necessitates the mandatory pre-admission aptitude tests that have been discussed extensively over the years. Those are truly passionate about pursuing medicine and are willing to sacrifice for this path will be differentiated from the rest, he continued.

“A common entrance examination to housemanship for graduating doctors from all medical schools may also ensure a transparent method of regulating quality internship,” said Ravindran.

Lesser students opting for medical careers

The Ministry of Health expects less local students to pursue medical education degrees. This is due to the government allowing public and private institutions to take in foreign students.

“Public universities will soon be able to reserve 5% of their medical seats for foreign students, who will have to pay full fees. Private universities can also offer up to 20% of their seats to foreigners,” said Jeyaindran.

In response to the MMA’s call for an aptitude test to be put in place prior to the housemanship, Jeyaindran refuted the matter and believed the argument did not hold water. “Studies abroad have shown that there is no strong evidence to suggest that a smart student will be a good doctor,” he explained. MIMS

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