Doctors question ministry’s oversupply projection

PETALING JAYA: Projections on the oversupply of medical practitioners by the Health Ministry have been disputed by doctors who say that this is not the case on the ground.

A representative of Hartal Doktor Kontrak said the Health Ministry’s statement on the oversupply of doctors does not reflect the actual situation.

He said although the number of doctors seems to be high, the number of patients have also been increasing.

“We are moving towards an ageing population, so there are more and more patients with various non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“With the increase in patients, the doctor’s workload is also increasing and this will cause sub-optimal service to be given to the people,” he said when contacted yesterday.

The representative added that the current number of doctors stood at 70,000 in both public and private service, with the ratio of doctors about 55% in government and 45% in the private sector.

However, 80% of patients go to government facilities while only 20% go private, he said.

“This imbalance worsens the doctor’s workload. Patients had to wait longer to get treatment, surgery dates had to be delayed because there were too many patients,” he said.

He added that the worsening economy after Covid-19 also caused more patients to seek treatment at government facilities.

In a written parliamentary reply dated June 8, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah, Sarawak Affairs and Special Functions) Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali said the Public Service Department’s (JPA) decision to stop offering medical scholarships was based on a study projecting an oversupply of doctors from 2026 to 2030.

He said the cost of sponsoring one medical student is equivalent to sponsoring 10 students in other fields.

Meanwhile, former Pahang health director Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar questioned if there were really enough doctors in the country, especially in the rural areas.

“Do we really have enough doctors? Go out of the Klang Valley and see.

“We need at least seven years to train new doctors,” he said.

“When existing doctors retire, die or move away, we need a sufficient number of doctors as replacements.”

He added that the JPA sponsorships for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy must be continued, or at least targeted scholarships should be offered to B40 students.

Dr Zainal Ariffin, who is also a public health expert, said an issue that was discussed when he attended a World Health Organisation (WHO) workshop in Geneva, Switzerland, several years ago was how developed countries in Europe and Canada were facing a shortage of doctors and had to import manpower from Eastern Europe and Africa.

He added that this led to Africa and Eastern European countries facing a shortfall of doctors and having to increase the amount of sponsorships as their doctors have migrated to Europe and Canada.

“In 10 to 20 years from now, where will Malaysia be? Will we use Artificial Intelligence (AI) doctors?” he said.

National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) managing director Dr M. Muralitharan said there still needs to be targeted JPA scholarships for B40 students to pursue studies in the medical field.

“I still think that for social equity there should be scholarship seats for the B40; if not, social advancement is going to be challenging,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the people at the forefront of the contract doctor issue who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said if it was true that the country has too many doctors, there would not be cases of emergency departments or wards being shut down or long waiting times at hospitals and clinics.

“If we really have an oversupply, our doctors in the district hospitals won’t have to be on call nine or 10 times a month,” he said.

He added that the JPA should do a situation check at the health clinics and hospitals while hospital directors should inform the ministry about the staffing situation.

The ministry should also publish such staffing numbers transparently, he added.

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