Older doctors may work abroad but younger ones returning home, MOH says

By Jerry Choong
Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the People's Housing Project (PPR) public housing, free education and the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) cash transfer scheme were some of the many examples of the government's initiative in social welfare. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 14 — The trend of young doctors seeking greener pastures abroad is reversing as many have decided to come back to work in Malaysia, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today amid a report showing thousands of them employed in the United Kingdom.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said this was likely due to working conditions in those countries causing them to return home instead, and those who stayed may probably be older doctors.

“If job and promotion opportunities or prospects are strong in those countries, then the doctors would likely stay put.

“However, it is not as easy as some believe it to be, and if things become difficult many prefer returning here to work,” he told the press today after announcing measures to increase the number of medical specialists.

The UK’s Daily Mail reported recently that Malaysians are the fifth-highest category of foreign doctors working for its public health system, with over 1,500 of them there.

“There used to be a time years before when many Malaysians who studied in the UK chose not to come back but instead continued to work there. With the current generation of young doctors the numbers are much smaller,” he said.

When asked if any of the Malaysian doctors in the UK’s public health system are scholarship graduates, Dr. Subramaniam said most would have been privately funded by their own families.

He added the ministry is also looking to develop working relationships with Malaysian doctors who have lived and worked abroad for a few or more years, as he claimed many of them wished to contribute to the country.

“I have told the director-general to look into this, as we will always welcome them back should they choose to return. We get around 30 to 40 applications from such individuals every year,” he said.

During the press conference, Dr. Subramaniam said Malaysia has no shortage of doctors as some 5,000 house officers or trainee doctors enter the system every year.

Of that number, 3,500 are local graduates while the remainder have returned after finishing their studies abroad.

“The issue is to increase the number of specialists as we are lacking in certain fields. As of December last year we have 9,632 medical specialist and sub-specialists. 4,829 are in the public sector while 4,803 work in the private sector, universities, and registered armed forces,” he said.

Among the methods the ministry has implemented is the Parallel Specialty Training programme, and the Sub-Specialty Training Programme which covers 110 fields.

Doctors who have served in Sabah and Sarawak will also be prioritised for the Sub-Specialty Training Programme, in an effort to bring more specialists to the two states.