16 January 2023
Press statement by Wanita MCA Sabah Chairperson and MCA Deputy Secretary General Datuk Dr Pamela Yong
Neurologists shortage in Malaysia: Govt urged to incentivise public sector medical specialists to retain talent; Med grads urged to consider neurology for specialist studies
Wanita MCA Sabah congratulates the combined medical team comprising of Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital neurosurgeons Dr M. Sofan Zenian and Dr Hezry Abu Hasan, together with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) neurosurgical anaesthesiologist Dr Yeap Boon Tat and Sungai Buloh Hospital senior neurosurgical consultant Dr Liew Boon Seng for successfully performing the first “awake craniotomy” in Sabah on a 50-year old female patient.
Not forgetting, kudos also to the unsung heroes ie operating theatre nurses who assisted in the surgery as well as ward nurses who will attend to patient in post-surgery recovery.
A news report in April 2019 reveals that Malaysia faces a shortage of neurologists and this is hampering efforts to treat stroke patients whose number is on the rise. As of April 2019, Health Director General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham reported that there are only 107 neurologists in the Health Ministry, universities and private sector to handle an average of 92 admissions every day into Malaysian healthcare facilities. 40% of these admissions consist of patients below the age of 60 years (The Star, 19 April 2019).
Dr Noor Hisham reported that Malaysian needs another 200 neurologists at least to tend stroke patients.
In this regard, Wanita MCA encourages medical graduates to consider neurology, neuro-surgery, neuro-anaesthesiology for their specialist studies to fill in the lack of neuro-specialists in this category of healthcare.
Retaining medical talents with the public sector
We also urge the Finance and Health Ministries to take proactive measures to allocate a higher Budget for neurology and its related medical sciences, as well as care and therapy for stroke victims in Malaysia as the latter would particularly benefit B40 stroke patients. Incentives could also be offered to discourage neuro specialists from exiting the government service for a more lucrative line in the private sector.
For long term planning, the government needs to look towards targeted incentivised human capital development to increase specialties according to the needs of the nation.
Rather than slashing staff or reducing the Budget for the Health Ministry, the government should delve deeper on retaining talented doctors with the public service and constantly encourage their continuous professional development so they can keep abreast with new techniques and be of par with those from the international arena aiming to identify Malaysia as a country worthy of high quality medical services.
Tending to the medical needs of an aging population
As the nation becomes more developed and Malaysia will become an aging population by 2030 - much needs to be done by government. This includes the Health Ministry which needs to prepare for the heath demands and the needs for such an aging population.
Expanding medical tourism
The delicate yet successful surgery on a fully conscious patient also indicates that Malaysia’s medical skills are of world class standards. As the patient was assured with confidence throughout the operation, this highlights that the surgical team also endeavoured to address and comfort the emotional context of the situation.
As there are budget and full-fare airlines flying to Sabah from Peninsula Malaysia, Incheon (Korea), Manila (Philippines), Changi (Singapore), neurology, neuro-urgery and post-surgery care would be other areas for the federal government and Sabah state government to promote and develop in terms of encouraging medical tourism to the Land Below the Wind for quality and affordable healthcare.