THE government is serious in tackling the shortage of specialist doctors but is facing many hurdles along the way, the most important of which is not compromising on the quality of healthcare in the country.
The Health Ministry has a dual responsibility which is to deliver quality healthcare and provide adequate training for all levels in the medical field, says Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran.
This is no small feat, he points out, as the ministry is responsible for those pursuing their undergraduate studies right up to their sub-specialisation.
Dr Jeyaindran acknowledges that there is a specialist shortage in Malaysia but to solve it, the ministry is focusing on ensuring that the system has the capacity to train the specialists, and a succession plan is put in place so that they get the adequate exposure and experience.
These two traits, he adds, are vital in training any good specialists.
He adds that the ministry currently offers about 1,000 places every year for the local Masters Programme for medical officers who want to specialise.
“This number of seats is determined by the trainer-trainee ratio,” he says, adding that the ratio stands at one trainer to two trainee specialists, sometimes even three, depending on the discipline.
There are about 23 different Masters training programmes offered in local public universities.
According to ministry statistics, there are about 500 trainee specialists registered with the ministry as of June last year.
He adds that there is very stiff competition for spots in the Masters Programme as there can be between five and 10 people applying for that same seat.
Since places are very limited, Dr Jeyaindran says the Health Ministry is encouraging more people to pursue specialist training via parallel pathways such as the UK Membership Programmes, of which part of the exams are conducted locally in Malaysia.
Some of the membership programmes that have been implemented in Malaysia include the Member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP), UK, Member of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health (MRCPCH), UK, Member of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (MRCOG), UK, and Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), UK.
“The ministry has also created a personal development plan for each candidate who has passed the first part in the parallel pathway,” he says, adding that there are about 400 doctors registered for the programme.
The membership programme, he explains, comprises three exams, or parts, and the personal development plan is meant to ensure the trainees are receiving enough training for their parallel pathway exams, shares Dr Jeyaindran.
He says the programme benefits the trainee specialists as they will be given the necessary exposure to different cases so that they are well-prepared for their membership programme exams.