Health Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said although there are proposals for doctors and nurses to be given special leave for that purpose, there was no formal policy made.
“It would be great if doctors, specialists or nurses serving in the government went abroad to improve their skills, then returned home to serve.
“But for now, the ministry has yet to consider unpaid leave because we do not have enough staff,” he added.
Dr Hilmi assured that no doctor or nurse was stopped from going abroad, but was proud that the services of Malaysian personnel were highly sought-after and in demand – especially in Middle East countries.
● Government aims to add 1,000 specialist doctors a year to meet demand
● MOH: 150 specialists leave public sector in Malaysia every year
● Concerned MOH offers incentives to retain medical specialists in Malaysia’s public sector
British NHS comprises almost 1,550 Malaysians
Even in the UK, the British parliament stated in a recent report that a total of 1,548 Malaysian doctors were working in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as of September 2017.
Malaysians were reportedly the fifth highest foreign nationality to work as doctors in the UK’s public health service, though it is unknown whether they were UK graduates. Additionally, 2,201 Malaysians were registered as NHS staff.
The Malaysian staff in the NHS is part of a large pool of 137,000 foreign workers in the UK public health service. Only just under 62,000 of the staff are EU nationals.
Dim local prospects encourage doctors to go abroadThe Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said that the poor employment terms and promotion prospects in Malaysia could be why local doctors are practising abroad.
“Doctors will definitely look out for their own best interests.
“If terms of medical service and prospects of promotion are poor here, surely they will look to work elsewhere,” said MMA president Dr Ravindran R Naidu.
Explaining the numbers, he also suggested that there could be a possibility of doctors pursuing specialist studies.
“The doctors might be doing their post-graduate studies or specialist programmes there, while at the same time, they could also temporarily work as a doctor.
“The money the doctors earn from the job could cover their studies and other expenses,” he added.
However, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the trend of young doctors staying abroad to work is reversing, as many have returned to Malaysia instead. He attributed the trend to the different conditions in those countries, causing them to return home instead, and those who remained, were probably older doctors.
"If job and promotion opportunities or prospects are strong in those countries, then the doctors would likely stay put.
"However, it is not as easy as some believe it to be, and if things become difficult many prefer returning here to work," he added.
Dr Subramaniam shared that the MOH has been looking to develop working relationships with Malaysian doctors who have lived and worked abroad for a few or more years, claiming that many of them wished to contribute to the country.
"I have told the director-general to look into this as we will always welcome them back should they choose to return. We get around 30 to 40 applications from such individuals every year," he said.
Malaysia currently reports from a lack of specialists despite a surplus of doctors and medical graduates. Among the methods the MOH has implemented to address the problem, include Parallel Specialty Training Programme, and the Sub-Specialty Training Programme which covers 110 fields.
Over in the NHS, wages are currently so low that NHS staff have reportedly quit their jobs to stack shelves in supermarkets. MIMS
[Editor's Note: This article has been updated on 15/02/2018.]
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