Seeking a cure for our healthcare system

Mustafa K. Anuar

Universiti Teknologi Mara and the National Heart Institute run the only programme to produce cardiothoracic surgeons in Malaysia. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 5, 2024.

IT’S bound to happen at a time when the authorities are still busy debating over what to do with the issue of cardiothoracic surgeons shortage in our healthcare system.

Amid the brouhaha, two hospitals in London, Royal Brompton Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, reportedly came to the fore to offer jobs to two local cardiothoracic surgery graduates who are involved in a lawsuit over the parallel pathway issue.

The issue revolves around a “parallel pathway” for cardiothoracic surgery specialist training that is run by the  Health Ministry with the collaboration of a foreign royal college. Unfortunately, this pathway is not recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

On the other hand, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and the National Heart Institute run a joint programme to produce cardiothoracic surgeons – the only course of its kind in the country.

The snag is that UiTM and its ardent supporters are opposed to the idea of the university opening its doors to non-Bumiputera specialists even on a temporary basis while waiting for Universiti Malaya, a relatively inclusive institution, to set up a similar programme in the near future.

Faced with this problem, four graduates from the cardiothoracic surgery programme with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and six Universiti Sains Malaysia graduates reportedly sued the MMC for refusing to register them on the National Specialists Register (NSR).

Both the two graduates who have been offered the jobs are, if their ethnic identities are of any political significance, Malays. This suggests that those who are internationally recognised are likely to be snapped up by institutions who value their professional expertise, irrespective of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Apparently, attempts have been made to persuade the two individuals to stay put in Malaysia, but their job frustration might lead them to eventually accept the attractive offers. 

It is understandable that these trained surgeons are concerned about their respective career pathways. Their future is at stake. 

The fear is that others might follow suit, hence resulting in a loss for Malaysia and a gain for foreign countries. 

This sounds familiar, given the brain drain that has been happening over the years and one that has reached the rate of 5.5% of our population, which is much higher than the global average of 3.3%.

To stem the tide of brain drain, applications from Malaysian medical specialists working abroad to return home to serve their fellow countrymen should be considered positively by the relevant authorities.

A brain drain among the local medical fraternity is the last thing we want to endure, especially when our ageing population has been increasing over the years. These are people who obviously would need more medical care.

The medical graduates are also likely to be courted and absorbed by the private hospitals in the country, thereby tipping the balance of medical specialists in favour of the private sector. 

The nation cannot afford to lose its much-needed medical specialists, given the long queue of patients waiting for their crucial surgeries and treatment.

In 2022, the Health Ministry projected that by 2030, cardiothoracic diseases would increase by 10%, which means two million more Malaysians above the age of 65 would require medical treatment.

The NSR recorded that only 88 doctors have indicated that cardiothoracic surgery is their first or second speciality. That is a measly sum. 

This is apart from such pressing issues as contract doctors. 

It is hoped that the parallel pathway specialists-MMC complication will be resolved when amendments to the Medical Act are tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat proceedings scheduled from June 24 to July 18. 

The authorities presumably know where their priorities lie. – June 5, 2024.

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  • I'm not surprised how and why the guardians were shortsighted of the numbers required but always like to blame others of their shortfalls. This is one classic case...they have their numbers and yet plead ignorance of the needs. My take sack em all as these folks has mislead the nation when we're in crisis...just sack them and start afresh. We need dedicated Specialist who has a passion to serve and save life's...not the ones who wanted to do their job and make the most, saya makan gaji!

    Posted 1 month ago by Crishan Veera · Reply

    • Didn't I said many times, there are plenty of crooks and idiots amongst our leaders.

      But PMX is only interested in getting rid of the crooks, NOT the idiots who may cause great harm to the country.

      Posted 1 month ago by Malaysian First · Reply