PETALING JAYA: Universiti Malaya (UM) loses at least 30 of its “best and brightest” medical graduates to Singapore every year, says Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, the former dean of UM’s medical faculty.
Taking to Twitter, Adeeba said there was an urgent need to plug the brain drain of medical officers and graduates in Malaysia in order to improve the public healthcare system.
She said there was a lack of posts and clear training pathways for doctors, nurses and other health professionals, forcing them to look abroad for employment or better opportunities.
“Now, we are also apparently going to help plug the National Health Service (NHS) shortage (in the United Kingdom) by also sending our medical officers to the UK.
“I don’t blame my young colleagues at all. I, too, would go where the opportunities are. We are failing them.
“How can we expect to build a resilient and world class health system when we have this continuous internal and external brain drain?” she said.
She was responding to an article by health news portal CodeBlue on how hospitals should not leave it to the emergency department (ED) alone to handle patients there.
This followed reports of patients being left for up to six days in Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun’s emergency department due to a lack of critical care beds and hospital staff.
Adeeba, an infectious diseases expert, maintained that this issue will persist “forever” until the problems that healthcare workers in Malaysia face are resolved.
The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing healthcare emergency had shone a spotlight on the issues in Malaysia’s public health system, particularly the plight of medical officers and contract doctors.
A social media campaign known as #HartalDoktorKontrak began to gain traction in 2021 and eventually led to contract doctors going on strike over the issue of their permanent placement.
Then health minister Khairy Jamaluddin had announced in February that 4,186 healthcare workers on contract would be absorbed into the health ministry for permanent posts from June onwards.
Khairy said the Cabinet had agreed to open up at least 1,500 permanent positions for doctors every year from 2023 to 2025.
Current health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had said resolving the plight of contract doctors who are fighting for permanent positions in the public sector will be among her main goals as she took on the post.