Resolve specialist shortage quickly, say surgeons

PETALING JAYA: While acknowledging that the specialist shortage is a complex issue, a surgeons group voiced hope that changes to the law can be sped up to fix the problem.

“While we understand the challenges and technicalities involved, we hope this can be resolved as soon as possible,” said Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery honorary secretary Prof Dr John Chan Kok Meng.

Referring to the Medical Act which touches on the registration of medical practitioners, he said: “The sooner the proposed amendments to the Medical Act are tabled, the better.”

On April 2, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said he would propose to the Cabinet that the proposed amendments be expedited so that they can be tabled in Parliament’s next meeting in June. The Act requires a registered medical practitioner to be registered with the Malaysian Medical Council, which has the authority to recognise specialist qualifications.

Dr Chan, when contacted, said there is a dire need for cardiothoracic surgeons in the public sector due to the large number of patients who require the services.

“There are three Health Ministry centres nationwide in Kota Baru, Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu with only a single surgeon,” he added.

Dr Chan said centres such as Hospital Raja Perempuan Bainun Ipoh have a designated space for cardiothoracic surgical services.

“There is a lot of room for the Health Ministry to expand such services,” he said.

Dr Chan, however, commended Dzulkefly for his efforts, initiatives and commitment to resolving the issues concerning the Parallel Pathway Programme (PPP).

(The PPP, which is included in an overall post-graduate training programme, is part of the process to become a sub-specialist in Malaysia.)

“We are grateful and thank the minister. We are eager to see the outcome of this effort, not only for cardiothoracic surgery but for all 14 specialties listed under Parallel Pathway training in the Health Ministry,” he said.

On Jan 31, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said the PPP complemented local Master’s programmes and produced many of the country’s specialists.

She said Malaysia’s population-to-specialist ratio is 10,000:4. This is much lower than the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) average rate of 10,000:14.3.

“There are fewer than 13,000 medical specialists in the public and private healthcare sectors. Around 9,000 medical specialists serve in the ministry’s facilities,” she added.

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