Focus View
Be flexible in addressing doctor shortage
FocusM team | 07 Jul 2017 00:30
Malaysia is short of doctors. The ratio of doctors to patients is 1:600 compared to the target of 1:400 by 2020. 

It looks like this target is not going to be met if the government is not flexible in its policy of hiring Malaysian doctors on contract, let alone on a permanent basis.
Several quarters criticised the recent move by the Public Services Department (PSD) to relax the SPM pass in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) for hiring contract medical officers. They demanded that the Ministry of Health (MOH) rescind the waiver as it undermines the national language.
The critics, mainly politicians, even went to the extent of saying that it could lead to misdiagnosis of patients due to poor communication between doctor and patient. If that is the case, why are we hiring foreign doctors who do not meet the BM requirements?

We must remember that the PSD’s waiver applies to only contract staff. Those who want a permanent job must pass their BM. 

In any case, the Cabinet on July 5 decided to rescind the BM waiver for contract doctors following the controversy. The question remains: How is the MOH going to address the doctor shortage? 

Many Malaysians go abroad to do their O and A-levels and, as such, have not taken their BM exam at home. But that does not mean they can’t speak BM. 

We are talking about the PSD recruiting 300-400 graduate doctors for two years by giving them the BM waiver. Do we want to lose them to other countries and worsen our brain drain?

It is easy to champion BM while ignoring the fact the country is short of doctors. Do these critics care if the shortage of doctors results in the loss of lives, especially in the rural and remote areas? Or are they more interested in gaining political mileage? 

Surely, according some flexibility when the situation warrants is not tantamount to undermining BM as the country’s national and official language. That has always been the government’s policy and should not be questioned. 

So critics, especially politicians, should not blindly undermine government efforts to provide Malaysians with better healthcare. There are times when temporary exceptions need to be made in the greater national interest. 

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