Health Ministry director general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday that the Ministry wants to hire more private doctors to work in government hospitals to supplement the 50% shortage of medical officers and specialists in the country. He revealed that there were currently a total of 25,000 doctors in the country but the health sector still lacked manpower in every department,especially for positions such as anesthetics, physicians and surgeons. Ismail's statement that there is a 50% shortage of doctors will mean that our public hospitals lacks 12, 500 doctors! This is not a small number .
For past many years , the government has been talking about the doctor shortage problem but the current shortage revealed by Ismail certainly indicates that the problem has not been effectively solved.
Undoubtedly most Malaysians still go to public hospitals for their medical need and treatment .This is because they are unable to afford the high fees charged by the private hospitals. Accessibility and entitlement to good health care at public hospitals is one area a good government must be able to ensure. Unfortunately, the government hospitals still face a 50% shortage of hospital doctors today. Certainly quality of service will be affected.
The problem of inability to retain doctors at government hospitals is a main problem that must be addressed. The Health Ministry should propose competitive pay scheme and monetary incentives which can help to retain government doctors.
For the past few years, there have been news reports annually that some top SPM scorers who wanted to pursue medical undergraduate degree found difficulty in obtaining JPA ( Public Service Department ) overseas scholarship.
It is ironical that our bright students who are qualified and interested to pursue medical degree are denied the opportunity simply because their parents cant afford to sponsor their studies and yet JPA is unable to provide them with scholarship when our country still faces shortage of doctors.
The government must therefore be prepared to increase the number of JPA overseas scholarship for medical degree applicants. If high cost of an overseas medical programme is a hindrance , certainly JPA can offer the applicants the chance to pursue the medical degrees at private universities in our country.
Lets hope that when JPA scholarship results are announced next year, not a single academically qualified applicant will fail to obtain JPA scholarship to pursue his/her dream of becoming a doctor.