PETALING JAYA: The health ministry does not have the capacity to absorb all the medical graduates being produced in the country annually, says a former deputy health minister.
Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye told FMT the issue was not simply the number but also the lack of those with adequate training.
The PKR man said the 3,000 medical graduates produced by Malaysian universities in 2020 had already exceeded the health ministry’s capacity to absorb them into permanent posts.
“Imagine if this increases to 4,000 medical graduates per year. There are 1,000 to 2,000 overseas medical graduates returning to Malaysia yearly.
“The ministry cannot have enough posts to train fresh medical graduates as housemen. It also does not have enough capacity to provide permanent posts after their stints.
“At the moment, the waiting time to get houseman posting is six to 12 months.”
Higher education minister Noraini Ahmad told the Dewan Rakyat 2,967 medical students had graduated from higher learning institutions in 2020.
She said her ministry’s target was to produce 4,000 new doctors yearly to reach the recommended ratio of one doctor for every 400 people by 2025.
“The current intake capacity of medical students at all institutions in the country is 4,820 students,” Noraini added.
Fresh doctors have been put on a contract system in recent years instead of being absorbed permanently into government service.
It was recently reported that 1,497 contract doctors had resigned since 2017, including 514 between January and November this year.
Lee said the quitting of contract doctors meant that the nation was being deprived of trained doctors and even specialists, adding that some of them would leave the field altogether to take up unrelated jobs.
Outstanding issues like the lack of permanent posts and the opportunity to go for specialist training were the main reasons they quit, he added.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said there was an oversupply of medical graduates, with more than 22,000 doctors on contract with the government.
In a statement, MMA president Dr Koh Kar Chai said this imbalance between the job market and the country’s aspirations was due to poor policies.
Koh blamed the current lot of contract doctors on the “mushrooming” of medical schools and programmes over the years, coupled with the vast number of foreign medical institutions given recognition.
“That has led to a rise in the number of new medical graduates to the extent that the health ministry is not able to offer them adequate positions for houseman training.
“Out of the 23,000 medical officers placed under the contract system introduced in 2016, only around 1,000 have been given permanent posts.
“Correct the mistakes of the past while the opportunity to do so still exists.
“Resolve the issues or be labelled a failure by the people,” he told the government.