THE issue of insufficient positions for housemen in Malaysian public hospitals has been a hot topic at medical faculties, the Health Ministry and especially among students graduating from medical schools this year.
It was recently reported in The Star that Malaysia was struggling to accommodate thousands of its medical graduates for housemanship every year.
Currently, medical graduates wait three to six months for housemanship as there were only about 5,000 slots a year.
MetroPerak spoke to several graduating medical students to get their views on the longer waiting period for housemanship placements, which is a direct result of the large number of medical students graduating each year.
Although worried, the students say they are trying to keep calm as they believe the placement will come eventually.
In the meantime, they are looking for alternatives to cushion the impact of the wait.
A final year medical student who wished to be known only as Amy, 24, said everyone in her school has been talking about the issue, particularly since the wait for her batch’s houseman placement will be longer compared to her seniors.
“Two years ago, it was a two-month wait. Last year, my seniors had to wait about three months.
“For us, the authorities couldn’t give us a specific answer about the wait time when asked – everything is pretty much up in the air now,” she said.
On the issue of housemen forgetting what they learned in school because of the long waiting period, Amy said it is important for graduates to read relevant material constantly to retain the information.
“I don’t mind reading up every now and then, just to add to what I know,” she said.
But ultimately, Amy said the long wait could mean unemployment for an indefinite number of months.
“My dad is a businessman and he can still support my mother and I, so they told me that the long wait was still acceptable.
“Anyway, medicine isn’t everything and I’m considering alternatives.
“Looking on the bright side, this means that I get to spend more time with my family, travel and perhaps, pursue my hobbies,” she said, adding that she has a passion for the arts.
Amy said she chose to become a doctor because she was interested in the field of medicine and not the possibility of earning lots of money.
“Actually, when you divide your basic salary with the number of hours you work a week, it’s lower than what you get at working in fast food outlets.
“You may be getting about RM4,000 for four weeks, but you are working a minimum of 72 hours a week.
“Earning a lot of money may be possible only 18 years later if you manage to work in private hospitals,” she said.
For medical graduate Laura Lau, 24, who was told her wait for housemanship was at least six months, said she was embracing the break between the hectic final year at university and more hectic housemanship period.
“If you want the popular hospitals in big cities, it could be a longer wait.
“But if you want to work in East Malaysia at smaller hospitals such as in Tawau and Miri, then it could be a shorter wait,” she said.
Lau also said the concern about housemen forgetting what they learned in school was justified because of the lengthy wait.
However, Lau said she did not see the long wait as a cause for worry as this has always been a chronic problem.
“I’m not that worried because I’m bonded with the government, so I don’t think I’ll be jobless at the end of the day.
“But pursuing postgraduate studies will be even more competitive in the future since more people are fighting for places,” she said.
First year medical student Kirenpreet Kaur, 18, said she was not worried about the long wait.
“I believe the situation is only temporary. I’m sure by the time I graduate, the government would have it all figured out,” she said.
Kirenpreet said she was not discouraged from becoming a doctor by the issue.
“I really want to save lives because I’m very interested in the subject too.
“I also think it’s the safest course to take, I don’t think I’ll ever be jobless,” she said.
The situation, however, is different for Public Service Department (JPA) scholars pursuing their studies overseas.
Lee Ji Ching, 25, who is studying medicine in the United Kingdom, said she was definitely worried about the medical graduate glut problem even though she still has a year left before graduation.
Lee said her main concern was being jobless for at least six months, right after graduation.
“There should have been better regulations in terms of entry into medical schools at the beginning,” she said, adding that it should not be a case of quantity over quality.
“I am still unsure of my plans for the future when I come back to wait for my housemanship placement, but finding a part-time job is certainly better than being jobless,” she said.
Lee said her parents are fine with her waiting for at least half a year without a stable source of income.
“But I imagine it will be different for those whose parents are dependent on their children’s salaries,” she said.