PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian nurses are in high demand abroad but the country requires them at home to fill the acute shortage of health professionals.
They are highly regarded by foreign hospitals, which see them as professional and skilled, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“Our nurses have attracted a lot of attention in developed countries and the Middle East. They are given good recognition.
“This is one reason why many of them have gone abroad to seek employment,” he told reporters after launching the Kumpulan Perubatan Johor Medical Conference at Putrajaya Marriott Hotel here yesterday.
He added that this, in turn, had contributed to the shortage of nurses in local hospitals.
Abdullah also said Malaysia would only be able to “export” them to work overseas after the Government has managed to overcome the local shortage, in response to a suggestion by KPJ Healthcare Bhd chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim that Malaysia should have a strategy to become a serious “exporter of nursing skills and expertise.”
Muhammad Ali had proposed in his speech, ahead of the launching ceremony by Abdullah. He had said that the returns, in terms of foreign exchange, would be tremendous and would, in the long run, enhance Malaysia’s reputation as a centre of health excellence.
KPJ Healthcare had also submitted a proposal to the National Economic Action Council on the marketability of Malaysian nursing graduates to encourage youths to take up nursing as a career.
On the lack of doctors, Abdullah said he has asked the Health Ministry to review the competitiveness of a package offered to foreign doctors to work in Malaysia.
The country, he said, continued to face an acute shortage of health professionals despite recent improvement, and was still lagging behind the ratio of one doctor to 600 patients targeted for 2020.
“I have been informed that as at March, the ministry has filled 77% of the 13,000 vacancies for doctors. The Cabinet has also approved the creation of 1,149 posts for foreign contract doctors.
Of these allocations, offers have been made to 404 doctors, but only 135 have reported for duty,” he said.
On comments by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he would leave it to Abdullah on whether to hold the elections in Sabah polls before the general election, he said: “When the time comes, I’ll tell you. Preparations for elections in Sabah are going well.”
At another function in Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah asked Felcra Bhd to identify areas where small and medium-sized factories could be set up to produce agriculture-based products.
This would increase the income of those in the rural areas, he said when launching the 22nd annual general meeting of Felcra Berhad Co-operative at the Putra World Trade Centre.
He said rural folks were skilled in producing agriculture-based products.
“In some areas, they can even make handicraft out of wood found floating on the river.”
He said Felcra should use its resources to identify the products, develop the factories and market the products.
“The small and medium factories are just the beginning. When they are successful, the factories can be expanded to become large factories. Many large factories in other countries such as Japan and South Korea started small,” he said.
Felcra Berhad chairman Datuk Hamzah Zainudin said a committee to study this would be set up and headed by him.
He said the committee would identify areas where the factories could be sited.
“This will take some time, maybe up to six months,” he said.