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COMMENT | Contract medical officers - the problem is real

COMMENT | There are now around 23,000 young doctors in the Health Ministry serving as house officers and medical officers on a contract basis for the past five years. In fact, upon the completion of their five-year contract with the Health Ministry, only a small percentage of them (3.4 percent, or 789 out of 23,077) have been offered permanent jobs with the ministry.

The problem is that five years of service does not give enough time for them to specialise. So the doctors who are not absorbed into the government can only work as general practitioners (GPs). But the GP sector is already crowded with more than 7,000 registered doctors and the going is tough for them.

The problem actually began more than 15 years ago. The federal government then allowed too many private colleges to provide courses for doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, X-ray technicians, lab staff, etc. More than 20 private colleges were granted approval to train doctors and they applied for large entry quotas to these courses, driven mainly by commercial considerations. The proliferation of medical schools was in part facilitated by retired senior officers from the health and education ministries who went on to helm many of these private institutions.

These developments were accompanied by the approval of excessively large quotas for student intake as well as the PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund) loans for the thousands of hopeful medical students. Belatedly...

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