Officiating the 20th Family Medicine Scientific Conference at Equatorial Hotel Penang, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah called for more specialists in family medicine to be housed at all 967 health clinics nationwide.

He added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) had acquired various methods to increase the number of family medicine specialists to achieve a target of having at least one to three specialists for every health clinic. Currently, there are only 336 specialists at 258 government health clinics.

“We need at least 2,800 family medicine specialists to be placed at 967 government health clinics nationwide,” he said.

Methods to increase the number of family medicine specialists include a master’s programme in family medicine, where 80 to 90 doctors would be selected to undergo a four-year course.

Collaboration with international medical colleges to train family medicine specialists

Dr Noor Hisham said that the family medicine doctors played an important role in community healthcare, as they are the ‘front liners’ before patients are referred to other specialists, depending on their needs.

“The plan is to establish a cooperation with medical colleges overseas and discuss on how we can conduct the specialist doctor examinations here to help reduce cost,” he elaborated, noting that the ministry was also looking at collaborations with foreign medical colleges for training of family medicine specialists.

One such collaboration is seen with the FRACGP (Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners), where examinations are conducted locally in Malaysia.

Efforts to reduce bed occupancy rates

In other efforts to reduce the bed occupancy rate (BOR), the ministry also plans to expand their cluster hospital pilot project to more state hospitals. Dr Noor Hisham says that the MOH recognises the need for reducing the BOR.

“If we look at state hospitals, I have to say the BOR is extremely high. But when we look at district hospitals, the rate is low, which means we are not fully utilising our facilities,” he expressed.

To average out the BOR, Dr Noor Hisham explained that the MOH have introduced cluster hospital programmes in Pahang and Melaka.

“We place specialist doctors at the district hospitals and we send patients there, making full use of the facilities in the district hospitals,” he said.

The move, he said, has shown positive results in balancing the BOR between district and state hospitals. Current BOR rates in hospitals in the Klang Valley, including maternity wards, are more than 100%.

The public have also lodged complaints of long waits to be warded at government hospitals due to the lack of available beds, especially at the maternity wards.

Alternative measures such as the LEAN healthcare initiative pioneered by Dr Nor Akma bt Yusuf, Deputy Director of the Hospital Management Servcies unit in the MOH, have been implemented in several hospitals such as Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor Bahru and Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah in Klang.

The initiative was a transformation project that used traffic light coloured magnets to coordinate bed allocations and set up of discharge lounges to increase bed availability. Other solutions included placing queue display panels in canteens to tackle patient overcrowding and increasing the number of registration counters to speed up administrative tasks. MIMS

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