New docs may have to wait a year for housemanship

PETALING JAYA: Newly qualified doctors must now wait longer – up to a year after their graduation – to take up their stints as housemen at certain training hospitals instead of the previous period of six months.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Krishna Kumar said that with medical graduates now being given the choice to choose the hospitals to be trained in under the e-houseman system and the long waiting lists in some hospitals, the waiting time could be longer.

Prior to the e-houseman system, which was introduced this year, the average waiting time was about six months.

“The waiting time is getting longer and longer, especially in the more popular urban hospitals, including the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

“We must have an entrance examination to screen medical graduates for the best candidates,” he said, adding that the bottle neck was reaching a “critical stage”.

Last month, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya announced that housemen could choose the hospitals for their internships through the new system.

Dr Krishna said with one in five applicants requesting for specific postings, the ministry decided to let the applicants see the limited spots available for themselves.

He said at the current rate of 5,500 medical students graduating each year, all 45 training hospitals in the country had difficulties in coping with the numbers.

Dr Krishna cited two hospitals as an example. At the obstetric and gynaecology (O&G) department in Seremban Hospital 65 housemen have come under the supervision of two consultants and five specialists while the Kuala Pilah Hospital O&G unit only had one obstetrician overseeing about 30 housemen.

“We are a small nation but we are generating so many doctors and causing a bottle neck in training hospitals,” he said.

He also expressed concern that some might not get postings as medical officers in the future, adding that their career path too would be limited because scholarships for Masters programme were only offered to between 800 and 1,000 medical officers each year.

Five years ago, The Star highlighted the massive number of medical students graduating each year, putting pressures on the limited number of training hospitals. The problem has since worsened.

Dr Krishna attributed this to the lack of political will to resolve the issue and urged the Higher Education Ministry’s moratorium on new medical programmes be maintained and the brain drain among specialists be addressed as it was difficult for a small number of senior doctors to keep tabs on housemen.

Universiti Malaya medical faculty dean Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said that there was no waiting list at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre for housemen but the entry level for medicine course at UM had been raised to 5As for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia results.

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said the five-year moratorium imposed on new medical programmes in 2010 would remain.

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