THE problem faced by the country today is a shortage of doctors, and the escalating cost of training doctors. Private colleges are helping to overcome this shortage.
It is hoped that after more than 40 years of Independence, Malaysia will not only produce doctors who are competent and have good ethical and moral values, but also specialists of world standard.
The issue of recognising medical degrees conferred by the Malacca Manipal Medical College has reached a conclusion. (The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) has given the college a year to fulfil several requirements in order for it to continue enjoying the status of a college issuing recognised medical degrees in Malaysia.)
However, this issue will crop up again, as there are many other private medical colleges in the country.
The need to evaluate the standards of private colleges from time to time should be addressed, despite the fact that they have obtained approval from the National Accreditation Board. Otherwise, we will have colleges functioning like factories, mass-producing doctors of dubious quality.
As a practising medical doctor who cares for the profession, I fear that the reputation of the younger generation of doctors will be spoiled by those lacking in competence. This will bring down the standard of the medical profession in this country in the eyes of the public and also of the world.
The MMC's suggestion for an “exit exam” should be welcomed. If teachers at private medical colleges can prove that their students are on par with others studying locally or abroad, any exam should be welcomed, especially by students who have just passed their final exams.
Today, the government has to reduce the number of sponsored students for economic reasons.
In order to train enough doctors for the country, private colleges have stepped into the void. Unfortunately, these colleges are for students with monetary means, some of whom may not have the academic excellence to pursue medicine.
The minimal academic requirement seems very flexible and differs from that set for the government scholars.
I understand that students who qualify for entry into government medical institutions are the crème-de-crème of this country, as the SPM and STPM exams are use as the yardstick (my son is also a medical student). But if entry into private medical colleges is so lenient, then we are likely to produce two sets of doctors with different standards and quality.
Medical courses shorter than five years will compromise on clinical training and theoretical parameters; they should be integrated and concise.
Students trained in this manner will have the disadvantage of being less exposed, and thus less competent. Minimising on medical context can result in misconception, misdiagnosis, mismanagement and medical negligence later on.
Studying medicine using simulators is not the same as practical sessions with a human being. I have been teaching CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) using a simulator and it does help my students who are experienced medical personnel and doctors, but getting a certificate in CPR does not guaranteed success in resuscitating a real patient.
Today, we cannot see the potential damage that low standard graduates can do.
If there are no definite guidelines on the minimum academic requirement for entry into medical colleges, and no evaluation of doctors in practice, medico-legal cases will multiply as the years progress.
As for the root of the
problem – the shortage of doctors – this can be minimised if the everyday cries and grouses of our local government doctors pertaining to low remuneration and heavy workload are entertained and resolved.
Young medical doctors and specialists should be given monetary incentive by allowing them to do locum at private institutions if they opt for it.
Allowing scheduled activity at private institutions will help to dissuade doctors from leaving public hospitals. Furthermore, these doctors are potential candidates for training as specialists and consultants if they remain in the public sector.
Public complaints of medical negligence can be minimised if more specialists are at the frontline, even at the district hospital level. This will result in a drop in referral cases to tertiary hospitals.
Government hospitals today are well-equipped and sophisticated, but more personnel need to be trained and hired.
The medical profession is a noble profession and while monetary reward is due it should be secondary to carrying out the noble duties of a doctor.
Hence, it would be sad if graduates from posh private colleges were to shun working in the public sector because of money.
Students and their parents who think that title, monetary gain, prestige and status are reasons to join the medical profession, should think again.