AIMING to have 28,000 medical specialists by 2030, the government is looking into allowing contract doctors the right to apply for a full scholarship under the Health Ministry to pursue specialist training.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that previously, the right to apply for Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP), which would allow doctors to pursue specialist training programmes in public universities while working, was only for permanent medical officers.
"The application for HLP was reserved for permanent medical officers while contract doctors could only proceed through parallel pathways on their own (if they wanted further training).
"But now, we want to give them the same facility so that they are eligible to apply for HLP to pursue specialist training at public universities.
"This is for their future, and it is among the things that were demanded and anticipated for (by contract doctors)," Khairy said in reply to Rusnah Aluai (PH-Tangga Batu) in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
This, he added, was also in line with the government's aim of increasing the number of specialists in public healthcare, which currently numbered only 5,993 out of the 32,885 permanent doctors under the ministry.
Out of the 23,096 contract doctors, only 19 are specialists.
Khairy said the country now had some 13,000 specialists, including those in the private sector, adding that it would need 28,000 by 2030.
"The Finance Ministry must give the commitment so that we can train these doctors to become specialists to meet our needs 10 years from now, during which the burden of disease would have increased with rising incidences of non-communicable diseases, an ageing population as well as infectious and non-infectious diseases," he added.
Khairy said while the country was not lacking in medical officers, there were not enough specialists in the public healthcare sector, leading to long waiting times at hospitals.
He said that starting from 2016, there was a sharp increase in the number of medical graduates from 3,000 to around 5,000 to 6,000.
"This exerts immense pressure on them to be appointed to permanent positions after completing their graduate training and compulsory service.
"From October 2016, it was decided that medical graduates would be offered positions on a contractual basis.
"This was also due to the government's policy of controlling the size of the civil service and prudent control of spending," he added.
On July 23, the government announced that medical officers, dental officers and pharmacists were offered a two-year extension to their contract upon completion of mandatory service.
Khairy said that between 2016 and June this year, 948 specialists and 4,028 permanent doctors under the ministry quit their jobs.
"We have been increasing allowances for our specialists but of course, it cannot match the pay offered by the private sector. We also allow our specialists to work once a week in the private sector for extra income.
"We have to keep looking at more ways to ensure that they stay in public healthcare," he told Abdul Latiff Abdul Rahman (PAS-Kuala Krai).
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