Push To Improve Malaysian Specialist Healthcare

The College of Physicians and College of Pediatrics of the Academy of Medicine Malaysia (AMM) is stepping up efforts to tackle the shortage of specialists and set a higher standard of specialist healthcare in the country.

Currently, the doctor to population ratio ranges from 1:398 in Kuala Lumpur to 1:3691 East Malaysia and this needs to be improved further as Malaysia’s population of 27 million continues to swell.

To address the situation, the two Colleges will kick off a series of training programs, delivered at local hospitals where doctors are serving so that they can remain in service.

“Our growth in the number of medical specialists is unable to keep up with the burgeoning population if we do not act. We are already overextended, what more now with the increasing demand from the medical tourism sector,” said Dr. Steven Chow, President of the AMM’s College of Physicians, ahead of the AMM’s College of Physicians-College of Pediatrics Annual Postgraduate Teaching Course at the Legend Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, May 2, 2009.

“That is why the comprehensive training programs are made convenient, so as to spur doctors to seek training in specialist fields as well as encourage existing specialists to update their knowledge.”

According to Professor Lee Way Seah, President of the College of Pediatrics, AMM, it will also prevent the nation from being over reliant on enticing Malaysian specialists to return home.

“It is a supplementary solution to the specialist shortage problem that will allow us to groom specialists that are ‘Made in Malaysia’ and in touch with the special needs of Malaysian patients. It will also ensure that standards of specialist practice are not compromised.”

On this, Dr. Chow said that it is also the intention for these doctors undergoing training to be accredited under the provisions of the National Specialist Register (NSR) of the AMM/Ministry of Health (MOH).

“At the micro-level, the NSR enables the public to access basic information on registered qualified specialists in the country and enable the patient to confirm if the doctor that he or she is seeing is a registered specialist.

“The big picture is that it will help the government strategize and plan for future specialist manpower training and provision of health care services.”

The NSR, a credentialing mechanism, was launched in 2006 as a result of collaborations between the MOH and AMM over two decades.

The NSR serves as a common register for specialists in both public and private practice and also non-MOH organizations who are deemed competent in their respective fields.

The proposed amended Medical Act will provide for registration of specialists. Credentialing of specialists will be undertaken by the National Credentialing Committee (NCC), consisting of members from the MOH and AMM.

The NCC is advised by over 44 specialty subcommittees, who are also in charge of defining the criteria for training and competence in the respective specialties.

Besides assisting with the strategizing of healthcare resources and public information purposes, the NSR is also designed to ensure that only qualified and competent doctors, local and foreign, are allowed to be registered and to practice in Malaysia.