Housemanship issue: Conserving status quo and not patients’ welfare


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 21 May 2024

THE health minister should be commended for the swift response in relation to the delays at district hospitals through the deployment of housemen. This boils down to proper positioning of resources wherein overstaffing in certain areas can be better utilised at locations which may be in dire need of resources.

Malaysia stands well in terms of the availability of medical healthcare at multiple locations to the general public who wish to avail themselves of such services which are provided at minimal, if any, cost especially to those who cannot afford the pricey private healthcare. It is something to be proud of.

Inevitably, there will be delays, given the pervasiveness of the current healthcare system, in certain localities as highlighted recently at a hospital in Kulim stating waiting time in the region of five hours.

This must not be taken as the norm and speedy action by the authorities is essential to avoid unmanageability in the long term by examining and attending to the root causes.

Even in a developed country which stands at the forefront on many aspects of "higher" living standards, the national health service has been found wanting especially on waiting times which has now become a gargantuan problem defying efforts to remedy it.

In this context, the shortage of specialists, namely in cardiothoracic surgery has solicited various exhortations from several quarters, both in the medical and academic fields, relating to non-recognition of certain postgraduate qualifications in this field.

It appears that there was a misstep in the dual-pathway programme which has frustrated doctors, patients and authorities alike.

Ironically, these dual-pathway programmes are recognised by the general medical council of the country involved, as conveyed by the country’s envoy. Where’s the issue?

The paramount consideration now appears to be conserving the status quo and not the patients’ welfare. It’s acceptable if a life or two, or maybe more, is lost as we focus on preserving the existing landscape, each wary to protect its own turf.

The question that begs asking is "Is this good for the nation as a whole?" as it has hit many sensitive parameters – the Medical Act, the framework of a dedicated race-specific university, recognition of parallel pathways in medicine, university curricular and quality audits, not to mention the overarching theme of providing quality healthcare.

To patients currently in dire straits waiting for surgery, such positioning is meaningless; when one is dead from waiting, academic quality audits offer no comfort.

The wearing of black by the students of an academic institution is symbolic – it does not want its doors to be opened, albeit temporarily, as it could be the death knell of its status.

Black, presumably, is also in sympathy to the many lives, especially of young parents who come from less privileged backgrounds, which may be lost in the interim until we get our act together. Ironically, it is to cater to this lower earning group that the university was set up.

This seems to have been forgotten in the translation as the Vice-chancellor is clear on the university’s stance.

Will it be more astute to amend the Medical Act? These are issues for the government to mull over as remedies are being sorted while lives are being lost. An acceptable trade-off, presumably!

WALTER SANDOSAM

Kuala Lumpur

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