More options needed to address doctor shortage in Sarawak

KUCHING: Sarawak still suffers from a shortage of doctors with a ratio of one doctor to 1,104 patients. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1:600. In 2013, furthermore, Peninsular Malaysia recorded a ratio of 1:700.

In response to Dr Hazland Abg Hipni’s question on what the doctor-patient ratio was and the challenges of medical services during today’s DUN sitting, Assistant Minister of Public Health Dr Jerip Susil added among the challenges faced were lack of clinics in rural areas, hospital facilities as well as medical staff and doctors in Sarawak.

Currently there are 2,237 doctors serving in Sarawak, 1, 759 of whom are working in the public sector and 478 in the private sector. It is estimated that 30 per cent of doctors are from Peninsular Malaysia. Dr Jerip said that those from Peninsular Malaysia came here for houseman training and continued to do their medical officership either in general hospital or the rural hospitals.

To overcome the shortage number of doctors in Sarawak, Dr Jerip said that measures such as allowances and promotions for Peninsular Malaysians serving in the medical and health services in Sarawak as incentives to stay longer in Sarawak had been given.

“Those who are posted to Sarawak are given allowances and those who are posted in Sarawak will receive promotions faster than those not posted in Sarawak,” Dr Jerip said.

While he considered it a good move, he admitted that it presented another challenge which was the possibility of applicants abusing the offer by deliberately applying for the Sarawak posting but only remaining for six months.

Besides that, he also suggested that measures could be taken to increase the number of local doctors to be trained in local universities as well as in universities in Peninsular Malaysia.

To increase the number of local medical students, Dr Jerip noted that that Unimas had been granted permission to reduce the qualifying entrance to enter matriculation for pre-med education
.
“Instead of all As, at least 5 As, so that they can start to do matriculation and hope to qualify to enter into medicine,” said Dr Jerip.

“Apart from that, I think there must be concerted efforts to train our local doctors not just in our local universities, but to encourage qualified Sarawak students to take medicine and if possible give them equivalent financial resources so that they should be able to be trained,” said Dr Jerip.

In addition to that, he suggested more training facilities for doctors should be provided to increase the number of medical students and he hoped the approval for Unimas’ teaching hospital would be forthcoming.

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