‘Long wait for housemanship? Students don’t want to leave their comfort zone’

PETALING JAYA: Deputy health director-general Dr Azman Abu Bakar has attributed the long wait for housemanship placements in part to students’ unwillingness to venture out of their comfort zones.

Speaking to FMT, he said not many students were willing to leave their homes and go to other areas such as the interior.

He gave the example of the Klang Valley, where he said the long wait was often due to insufficient placements as many students were lining up for postings in the area.

“It works on a first come, first served basis. There is no favouritism. If you want to wait for your preferred choice, fair enough. If you want to stay in the Klang Valley and it is full, you have the option to defer your placement and do it later.”

Azman said this was why there were complaints about the wait, adding that there were many available positions outside of the Klang Valley.

“But they prefer to wait, and the newspapers have only been highlighting one side of the story.”

He added that those who remained in Kuala Lumpur after two years must make way for students who had done their housemanship elsewhere.

“After two years of being in Kuala Lumpur, you will have to go out. It is compulsory and only fair to those who did their housemanship outside of the Klang Valley and want to come back.”

There are reportedly 4,000 to 5,000 medical graduates still awaiting housemanship placements.

The health ministry under the previous administration had planned to introduce a new programme for such graduates, known as “tagging”.

The programme allows graduates to follow and observe medical officers carrying out their duties at healthcare centres and was meant to be carried out at hospitals and clinics that do not provide housemanship courses.

Reports have attributed the glut of medical graduates and new nurses who have yet to get placements at government hospitals to an increase in graduates from local and foreign institutions.

The lack of placement slots is another reason why many medical students are still waiting to begin their housemanship training.

The ministry has increased the training slots for graduates from 10,835 to 11,706 through additional graduate training hospitals, from 38 in 2009 to 47 now.

When asked if the health ministry was considering collaborating with the private sector to offer more housemanship placements, Azman said this might not be a good idea but the ministry was considering its options.

“Let me pose this question back to you,” he said. “Why do people pay more to be admitted into private hospitals?

“They want privacy (which public hospitals cannot give).”