The ailing medical schools
PETALING JAYA: Medical specialists lecturing in public universities are leaving for greener pastures after years of being overworked and underpaid, according to Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan.
Describing the exodus as a “tragedy”, he said 38 senior clinical lecturers left Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Kubang Kerian campus in Kelantan in the past six months.
He claimed that some clinical lecturers, who are specialists and qualified surgeons with many years of experience, were stuck for more than 20 years without a promotion.
Those working with the Education Ministry performed as specialist doctors, lecturers and researchers, but received lower pay and fewer perks and promotions than if they were treating patients or teaching at a private university, he said.
“Public medical universities used to have the best clinical specialists in the country but most of these internationally acclaimed lecturers have left for private institutions and hospitals.
“Who will train our future doctors if the exodus continues?” he said.
He claimed that when seniors leave, clinical departments were manned by inadequately trained and inexperienced staff.
Due to a severe shortage of lecturers, some reputable universities had temporarily suspended their clinical department, he said.
He said the Education Ministry had agreed to work with the MMA to prevent a “serious brain drain” in public universities.
“As an immediate measure, the ministry is planning to create a special allowance for clinicians and, in the long run, chart out a better promotion scheme and career path for clinical lecturers,” he added.
He said the MMA met Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on May 2 to discuss issues faced by clinical doctors including the lack of transparent, standardised criteria for promotion and non-recognition of sub-specialty training and qualification.
“Promotion depends on the ‘paper chase’ rather than clinical excellence and work. Producing academic papers carries the bulk of the merit points and only 5% is credited to clinical teaching in considering promotions,” he said.
USM’s Health campus director Datuk Dr Mafauzy Mohamed acknowledged that the exodus, which started more than a year ago, needed to be addressed.
He claimed that the university’s clinical lecturers in Kubang Kerian had been “pinched” by a new private medical institution.
“It is true that the remuneration and promotion scheme under the Education Ministry is not as attractive as what is being offered by the Health Ministry and the private sector.
“We cannot stop people from leaving but we are looking at ways to compensate and retain our clinical lecturers,” he said, adding that USM’s clinical department remained open despite lecturers leaving.
“We always make sure we have new lecturers coming in but I know of clinical departments (in other universities) that are affected,” he said.