MMA: Surplus of medical grads due to poor past policies

PETALING JAYA: The overproduction of medical graduates and over 22,000 doctors on contract with the government are the result of poor policies of the past, says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

Its president Dr Koh Kar Chai called on the present government to rectify these past mistakes, saying that the current lot of contract doctors arose out of the fact that there was a mushrooming of medical schools and medical programmes over the years.

This, coupled with the large number of foreign medical institutions given recognition, led to an uncontrollable rise in the number of new medical graduates to the extent that the Health Ministry was not able to offer them adequate positions for houseman training, he said.

"Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad has mentioned that a total of 2,967 medical students graduated from local institutions of higher learning in 2020.

"According to her, there needs to be an average of 4,000 new doctors every year in order to achieve the target ratio of one doctor for every 400 population by 2025. She said this is according to the Health Ministry’s 2016-2020 strategic plan.

"However, it appears that the number of foreign medical graduates returning home, which matches the number of local medical graduates, seems to have been left out of the equation," said Koh in a recent statement.

He said the large number of medical graduates had led to an unhealthy imbalance in the job market and the country’s aspirations, adding that the issue of neglected contract doctors was there for all to see.

Currently, there are also 34 public and private medical schools in the country which was as many as there were in the United Kingdom, Dr Koh said, adding that there were between 3,000 and 6,000 medical graduates produced each year.

"There is something terribly wrong with this picture," he said.

Dr Koh pointed out that there were manpower shortages in healthcare while the healthcare needs of the nation were increasing and no permanent positions were available for contract doctors.

MMA had warned about the overproduction of medical graduates in 2010, he said.

"We wish to (point out) once again that out of the 23,000 medical officers placed under contract since the contract system was introduced in 2016, only around 1,000 were given permanent posts.

"The same government that closed its eyes to the mushrooming of medical schools and programmes also introduced the contract system.

"The more than 22,000 medical officers on contract today is a result of poor human resource planning and poor policies of the past," he said.

Dr Koh added that the Health Ministry recently had a discussion on the planning of healthcare human resources but the MMA was not called even after the ministry reportedly promised it would be included.

"There is a moratorium on the number of new medical schools and medical programmes at the moment and we were made to understand that this moratorium will be extended further.

"However, the statement that the Higher Education Ministry was updating the approval mechanism for the establishment of new faculties and the offering of medical programmes through the establishment of the Technical Committee for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Dental Surgery programmes have left us confused.

"The MMA wishes to seek clarification from the minister on her statement," said Dr Koh.

He added that if indeed the moratorium was being ignored, Malaysia would continue to see the issue of thousands of medical officers on contract as the current situation is today.

Dr Koh said the MMA wished to throw a challenge to the government of the day to "correct the mistakes of the past while the opportunity to do so still exists."

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