Cardiovascular surgery association hopes parallel pathway will be recognised

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (MATCVS) hopes that the parallel pathway programme will be recognised, says its president Datuk Dr Basheer Ahamed Abd Kareem.

He said that he hoped the Cabinet would instruct the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) to recognise the parallel pathway training and allow the Health Ministry to continue the programme for all 14 specialities involving more than 3,000 doctors.

Dr Basheer then asked why the MMC refused to recognise the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in the Cardiothoracic Surgery programme despite the message from the British High Commissioner that there has been no policy shift in its recognition.

This follows a post on X (formerly Twitter) by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, in which he posted a photo of the message on his official account.

“We feel they (MMC) should explain to the Cabinet and all Malaysians the true reasons for their refusal to support a project that is so beneficial for the rakyat, with taxpayer funds already being utilised to support training in the last six years," he said.

Dr Basheer added that the Cardiothoracic Surgery parallel pathway training was set up in 2016 by the government to train surgeons working in the Health Ministry to become specialist cardiothoracic surgeons.

“It had received all the necessary regulatory approvals, recognition and full backing from the government at the time the programme was started,” he added.

Dr Basheer said when contacted on Monday (May 27) that the quality of the six-year programme was assured and is concluded with exit examinations run by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

“The qualification has always been listed in the specialist register until 2021, when the MMC suddenly decided that they do not recognise the qualification and this was confirmed by the president of MMC in his statement in February 2024,” he said.

Dr Basheer added that it is understood that MMC's refusal to register graduates arises from the interpretation of clauses in the Medical Act, where they do not recognise Health Ministry hospitals as training centres although this has never been publicly verified by them.

"This is rather odd as almost all Masters Clinical Training programmes at local universities today are conducted within Health Ministry public hospitals to a certain extent and these stints have been crucial to the success of those programmes in the last two decades,” he added.

This comes in light of the Cabinet discussing issues related to the specialist training programme in its weekly meeting on Wednesday (May 29).

On Monday, Dr Dzulkefly had said that the Cabinet paper on the parallel pathway was almost ready, and would be tabled in Cabinet for approval at the June 5 meeting.

He said he had given a heads-up on issues related to the specialist training programme to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and early discussion will be held in tomorrow's Cabinet meeting.

The Star in March had reported that the shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons has left some 1,500 heart and lung disease patients in government hospitals in dire straits.

In March, Dr Dzulkefly told the Dewan Rakyat that there were only 14 cardiothoracic surgeons working in the ministry.

Malaysian graduates who had been sent by the government to study cardiothoracic surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh were also unable to practise in Malaysia as their qualifications are not accepted by the MMC.

Four of these graduates have already sued the MMC for refusing to register them on the National Specialist Register (NSR).

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