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Health ministry mulling equal study facility for contract doctors to get specialist training

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin says the facility would be equal to that offered to permanent medical officers.

2 minute read
Contract doctors hold up placards during a peaceful demonstration at Hospital Kuala Lumpur on July 26.
Contract doctors hold up placards during a peaceful demonstration at Hospital Kuala Lumpur on July 26.

The health ministry is considering allowing contract medical officers to pursue a specialist or master’s degree with a study facility equivalent to the Federal Training Prize made available to permanent medical officers, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said this was one measure to ensure the future of contract medical officers.

“Prior to this, the Federal Training Prize was only offered to permanent medical officers, while contract medical officers could only apply through the Parallel Pathway Specialist Training Programme.

“So, we want to provide a similar facility for the contract medical officers so that they too can pursue specialist training at any public university in the country,” he said in reply to Rosnah Aluai (PH-Tangga Batu) during question-time today.

Rosnah had wanted to know the ministry’s plan to ensure the future of contract doctors to prevent a brain drain.

Khairy said Malaysia has no shortage of medical graduates but a shortage of specialist doctors.

At present, he said, there are only 13,000 specialist doctors in the country, far behind the need for 28,000 specialist doctors by 2023.

He also said there had been a steep increase in the number of medical graduates, ranging from between 5,000 and 6,000 each year since 2016, compared to only around 3,000 each year from 2009 to 2015.

“This has caused tremendous pressure for them to be appointed to a permanent post upon completion of their housemanship and compulsory service… so, from October 2016, the government decided to offer medical graduates contract-based posts.

“This was also due to the public service size control policy and wise-spending approach by the government, so not all will be appointed to permanent posts,” he said.

However, he said those contract medical officers were given the same emolument as their permanent counterparts, including other perks such as vehicle and computer loans, living quarters and annual leave based on circulars in force.

“On Aug 20, the government also set up a special committee to tackle the issues of contract doctors which focuses, among others, on scrutinising and filing applications for additional permanent posts according to facility requirement, formulating a strategy to increase job opportunities for them in other ministries, government agencies and the private sector, and discussing with the Public Service Department (PSD) on a possible amendment to the Pension Act 1980 or introducing an equivalent act,” he said.

Khairy said the committee would comprise representatives from the PSD, treasury, Economic Planning Unit, higher education ministry and health ministry agencies.

On July 23, the government announced that medical, dental and pharmacy officers with contract appointments would be offered a two-year contract of service upon completion of their compulsory service period to ensure the continuity of service and also as preparation for young doctors to pursue specialist training.