Foreign nurses ‘not a threat’

PETALING JAYA: The welfare of local nurses and the cost of healthcare will not be affected despite the hiring of foreign nurses at private healthcare facilities, says Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh.

He said the government’s initiative in addressing the shortage of nurses in the country would not deprive local nurses of dignified salaries and the public of getting affordable healthcare.

Dr Kuljit pointed out that given that the plan to hire foreign nurses is a “one-year thing”, such claims should not arise.

“Yes, an extension is allowed after the one-year period ends, but this will only happen if we really need them.

“If we already have a lot of local nurses one year from now, why would we need to extend their contracts? This is why we’re saying it’s only for one year.

“Local nursing schools will definitely ramp up their production (of local nurses) but it will take time because we must remember that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they had to put (their education) on hold,” he said when contacted yesterday

Despite having to wait some time for local nurses to complete their studies and training, Dr Kuljit said he is confident that the issue will resolve itself soon – with foreign nurses needed at the moment to fill in the gap.

“Right now we do not have enough nurses and thus we are not able to open up more space in private hospitals. The shortage is causing a backlog.

“Many patients have to wait for hours, even in emergency cases because we don’t have beds. The only way we can provide more beds is if we have more nurses.”

At the same time, he said it would be illogical to suggest that foreign nurses would be paid more than local nurses.

“The view is wrong. We do not pay our foreign nurses more than our local nurses. The pay is about the same.”

On claims that the hiring of foreign nurses would cause healthcare costs in private hospitals to increase, Dr Kuljit responded in the negative.

“If healthcare cost is going to increase, it will happen anyway, and it will be because of increase in (prices of) equipment, medication and such, not due to the foreign nurses because again, we do not pay them more than our local nurses,” he added.

Malayan Nurses Union president Nor Hayati Abdul Rashid echoed a similar view, saying that just like any employees in other sectors, nurses get paid based on their qualifications, experience and skills.

“Regarding the pay disparity, nurses get paid just like everyone else, which is based on our qualifications and skills, as well as years of experience.

“I don’t see how local nurses will get paid less than foreign nurses because our salaries depend on our skills and this will not change.”

To plug the shortage of nurses in the country, the Health Ministry said it will allow private healthcare facilities to hire foreign-trained nurses without a post-basic qualification (JTWA), among other measures.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said an exemption will be given from Oct 1 to Sept 30, 2024, with additional extensions allowed for 12 months based on approvals by the JTWA Temporary Practising Certificate (TPC).

Following Dr Zaliha’s announcement, segments of the healthcare sector have expressed concern that the hiring of foreign nurses would cause private healthcare costs to increase while the competitive packages offered to foreign nurses would lead to pay disparities among local nurses.

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