PETALING JAYA: The reason why there are no more scholarships for first degrees in the medical field should be revealed by the Public Service Department (PSD), says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said the nation is still facing a shortage of medical professionals in the public and private sectors, with an ageing population expected in 2030.
He said that while there was a need to manage the number of medical graduates, abruptly stopping scholarships for medical studies may not be the way.
He also questioned if the move would affect the expertise that would be needed in the public healthcare sector in the near- and long-term.
"What is the government's policy on human resources planning for the public healthcare sector?
"We hope that PSDwill be able to share its projection of medical officers, specialists, allied healthcare personnel and other healthcare staff that will be needed for the next five and 10 years," said Dr Muruga Raj in a statement on Saturday (March 25).
He added that even now, Malaysia had yet to meet the recommended 1:400 doctor-to-patient ratio in public healthcare facilities.
In some hospitals, the ratio could even go up as high as 1 doctor to 1,000 patients, he said, adding that there were also shortages in the number of public healthcare specialists.
He said that there must be sufficient planning in healthcare human resources that takes into consideration the public's needs as well as population growth and the time needed to train healthcare workers.
"Our worry is there might not be enough specialists in the future as the demand for specialist services are increasing and is expected to further increase due to an ageing population.
"Malaysia will reach ageing nation status in 2030 where 15% of its population will be 60 years or older.
"How are we preparing for this demographic change in our population?" he questioned.
Dr Muruga Raj added that Malaysia must continue to support local university students wishing to pursue a career in medicine as not all come from well-off families.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said he hoped the government could reconsider the move.
He said the nation still needed pharmacists for the public and private healthcare sectors.
"Priority should be given to those who really want to be pharmacists, especially those in the B40 and M40 groups.
"Those qualified should be supported by the government as the nation needs competent pharmacists," he said.
On Sunday (March 26), The Star reported that PSD sponsorships for first degrees this year would not include the medical, dental, pharmacy and education fields.
Also included in the fields that would not be sponsored were nursing, paramedical and pre-service programmes.