Malaysia’s health minister claims that the country’s Ministry of Health has taken several steps to address the shortage of doctors and nurses in public hospitals and clinics. On February 27, Zaliha Mustafa stated that these steps had been taken.
In a written response to a question from the Parliamentary Committee, Dr. Zaliha stated that her ministry has expedited the appointment process for all medical graduates by omitting the Public Services Commission interview process.
Dr. Zaliha says that contract rehiring retired medical officers and increasing graduate training slots at the health ministry are additional measures.
She went on to say that the health ministry is also encouraging specialists who are employed in other Malaysian nations to return to the country and assist it.
Dr. Zaliha was questioned by Puchong Member of Parliament Yeo Bee Yin regarding the health ministry’s efforts to address the issue of hospital staffing shortages.
Recently, the issue received more attention after reports in the local media highlighted issues with overcrowding in hospitals and lengthy wait times in emergency departments.
Dr. Zaliha stated on Monday that the health ministry employed 59,651 medical officers in 2018, an increase of 6.6% from the 55,973 employed in 2021.
She stated, “Based on this increase, the ministry is optimistic of achieving the target ratio of one doctor to 400 people (1:400) in 2025.”
Dr. Zaliha made the observation that annual trends indicate that 30% of medical officers work in the private sector and 70% work in the public sector. Regarding nurses, the health minister stated that sixty percent of Malaysia’s 115,230 nurses are employed by the health ministry.
Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Fadillah Yusof told parliament on Tuesday that the country’s improved healthcare system was reflected in congestion at government hospitals. She claimed that better care was to blame for the overcrowding.
He noted that the problem of overcrowding persisted despite the government’s efforts to renovate and construct new hospitals.
If the services are better, people will be more willing to go to government hospitals.
Second, the hospital provides almost free services due to its low cost in comparison to private hospitals. “That is why the government hospital has become a focus for people to visit,” Mr. Fadillah stated.
The deputy prime minister stated that the overcrowding at public hospitals also indicates that Malaysians do not lead healthy lifestyles.
“The health ministry has placed an emphasis on the promotion of healthy living, which is why more people require medical attention. “This is important as a preventative measure that we should focus on… So that our hospitals are not burdened by too many medical cases that in the end bring losses to the country financially as well as the people as well,” Mr. Fadillah asserts.
The issue of public hospital capacity has been brought back into the spotlight in Malaysia as a result of reports in the country’s media of overcrowding in hospitals and long lines at emergency departments. This continues even after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
A group advocating for the rights of contract physicians under the handle @HKontrak posted a picture of a crowded emergency room at Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Twitter last month.
The post claims that admission to the hospital took more than 24 hours for patients. Additionally, it stated that approximately 100 patients were awaiting treatment in the emergency department.