Consolidate training programmes for specialists!

Training more specialists via alternative pathways
23 NOVEMBER 2014 @ 8:07 AM

stethoscopeKUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is committed to meeting the pressing need for more specialists. It is offering more local Master’s scholarships and opening up alternate pathways.

Director-general of health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said despite efforts taken in recent years, the country was facing a shortage of specialists.

“At present, we have an estimated 9,000 specialists, where 4,754 of them are attached to the ministry and about 31 per cent in the private sector,” he said yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the government had increased the number of scholarships for local Master’s programme, from 450 in 2007 to 1,000 in the 2012/2013 session.

“We are aware of the nation’s needs.”

He said the ministry, with the cooperation of local universities namely Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia, were doing its best to produce specialists, as well as increase their number.

“The rising expectations of patients should motivate us to improve our services and performance.”

Dr Noor Hisham said because of the limited space available in local universities, the ministry was encouraging medical officers to pursue specialist programmes through alternative pathways.

“The ministry is in the process of enhancing alternative pathways, such as the Membership programme, to make them more structured and attractive.

“In addition, sub-specialty programmes will be enhanced, as young doctors graduating locally and overseas are looking towards qualifying not just as specialists in medicine and surgery, but also as sub-specialists in specific fields.”

The Sub-specialty Training Programme or Fellowship Training Programme is a post-graduate training programme for specialists who possess basic specialisation qualifications.

“During its early restructuring, there were only 85 trainees in 26 programmes.”

“Since then, the number of trainees is increasing. As of November, there are 517 trainees in 109 programmes, with the popular areas being nephrology, cardiology, endocrinology and urology,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

Editorial note

As much as we are trying to train more specialists, we must ensure that standards are not compromised. More resources must be poured into local universities to ensure that the talent pool for training is not depleted. The Ministry of Health must also communicate and work more closely with the universities to ensure quality post graduate training. More hospitals can be affiliated with the universities to enable government doctors to contribute to the academia should there be an interest. The widening income gap between the private and public sector must be closed if we are to succeed in our endeavors.