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Unfair ‘treatment’ of specialist-lecturers by Inland Revenue Board

September 13, 2017

Medical lecturers in the private sector must be accorded same perks as government specialist-lecturers — that is 40% of their salary should also be exempted from tax.

FMT LETTERS

doctor_hospital_newBy A Clinical Specialist

Many are aware that educating medical/dental students overseas can easily cost more than RM1 million.

Despite spending such a huge sum of money, some of these trainee doctors (who graduated from foreign universities) are having a tough time during their housemanship period at local hospitals.

This is not surprising because in some countries medical students or interns do not have the opportunity to do history taking or clinical examinations as they are not allowed to interact with hospital patients.

Besides, some of these universities do not use English as the medium of instruction and this worsens the confidence of the houseman.

Hence, with the demands of ethical professional doctor-patient relationships, rigorous work schedules, the handling of life-saving procedures and sleep deprivation have caused many to leave this noble profession early.

The government has somewhat tried to train a limited number of doctors in local public universities.

However, it was noticed that poor remuneration was making medical lecturers leave, especially to the booming medical specialty hospitals consecrated by large cash-rich corporations.

To arrest this exodus of these lecturers, the government decided to provide some relief to these lecturers by not taxing the incentives provided to them.

These incentives were considered to have been spent in full, thereby deserving exemption from taxable income.

They are the (a) specialist incentive allowance, (b) housing allowance, (c) entertainment allowance, (d) housemaid allowance and (e) house maintenance allowance.

This amounted to 40% of their gross salary.

This privilege was then able to retain many dedicated and committed specialist-lecturers and reduced the lingering lecturer shortage complaints in the government.

This problem is not only observed in public medical/dental colleges; even private ones are facing a shortage of lecturers. As we know, this shortage will affect the quality of our medical/dental graduates.

Therefore, there is greater dependence on foreign lecturers in the private sector.

Some are very experienced and noteworthy but there are a select few who sometimes behave as “itinerant lecturers”.

They take lecturer positions and then venture again to greener pastures overseas, where they can then settle permanently.

They can’t be blamed for doing this as they do not have any statutory assurance that they can settle in Malaysia eventually.

It must be noted that specialist-lecturers are produced after more than 10 years of dedicated hard work within recognised training centres.

Despite this length of training, they even have to provide post-qualification working experience for one or two years to be eligible for registration with the National Specialist Registrar. Only then can they be recognised as a specialist.

It is a fallacy to believe that private colleges pay more for their staff than government institutions.

Government regulatory bodies restrict the number of medical/dental students in each batch in private institutions.

Tuition fees are relatively inexpensive to enable the less fortunate to access quality education — with the help of PTPTN (Higher Education Fund Corporation) study loans.

Moreover, private colleges cannot operate from shoplots but need a decent campus, with clinics, library facilities, laboratories, sports fields and residences for students to cherish their varsity days while undertaking their scholastic pursuits.

Ultimately, private medical colleges need to build and own hospitals to reduce their dependence on government hospitals for training.

Having a hospital is warranted as it will also encourage lecturers to practise their skills in the various disciplines they are trained for.

In reality, all these involve a huge outlay of finances and these private medical colleges are actually providing a service to the nation as they do not receive any special government grants.

Consequently, private colleges are not able to pay hefty salaries to their lecturers although this is needed to develop a devoted pool of specialist-lecturers to train our own students.

Therefore, it is not unrealistic to request that these lecturers in the private sector be accorded the same perks as government specialist-lecturers — that is 40% of their salary should also be exempted from tax.

Consideration needs to be given to this fervent appeal. Hopefully, the Inland Revenue Board can correct this anomaly.

Moreover, these lecturers in the private sector do not have the security provided by public universities where they can opt for the pension scheme.

With these changes in the taxation structure, certainly this would encourage the application and retention of young specialist-lecturers as private colleges can then provide better facilities for learning, research and clinical or hospital services.

These private colleges can then start postgraduate courses to increase the number of specialists and consultants badly needed in this country and even for other developing countries.

We then may not need to send any students overseas for medical/dental education after all.

A Clinical Specialist

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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