Neurologist shortage hampering stroke treatments

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia is facing a shortage of neurologists and this is hampering the effort to treat stroke patients whose number is on the rise.

There is an average of 92 admissions each day to Malaysian healthcare facilities.

About 40% of them are below the age of 60, Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

“However, there are only 107 neurologists in the Health Ministry, universities and private sector. We need at least another 200 neurologists to handle stroke patients.

“In 2016 alone, there were 33,812 admissions costing the government RM180mil,” he said when opening the 1st Malaysia Stroke Conference here yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said stroke posed a big challenge to Malaysian healthcare services with at least 32 deaths per day.

As for survivors, they were burdened with multiple problems, he said.

“Seven out of 10 stroke survivors are activities of daily living (ADL) dependents and only three are back to normal after treatment,” he said.

(ADL refers to basic everyday tasks such as taking care of personal hygiene, dressing and eating.)

At present, said Dr Noor Hisham, all state hospitals nationwide have at least one neurologist, except for Kedah and Perlis.

“While annually we are recruiting around 10 neurology trainees, the exodus of some neurologists from the service to join the private sector has posed substantial challenges,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the setting up of stroke units and stroke specialist centres would help in the rehabilitation of stroke survivors.

“There are only three established stroke centres in the country. However, we hope to have more in the near future,” he said.

Health Ministry Neurology Services national head Dr Santhi Datuk Puvanarajah said the 40% figure of stroke patients below the age of 60 were worrying as it was a peak age for high productivity.

“These are the people who should be contributing to the nation and enjoying life and not regularly coming to hospitals,” she said.

Dr Santhi said people should focus on prevention of stroke by first addressing their lifestyle, and make necessary changes to have a positive impact in their health.


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