PETALING JAYA: Doctors at private healthcare institutions should step up and help public hospitals meet the high demand for medical services.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said there is a severe shortage of specialists in several disciplines at public hospitals.
“We want to see private specialists offer their services at public hospitals, especially in emergency cases that require their speciality,” he told theSun yesterday.
However, private hospitals that use the services of doctors from public institutions pay substantially more than what the government can pay.
A private doctor or specialist who offers his services at a public hospital is paid RM300 an hour. On the other hand, a specialist at a public hospital stands to make up to RM5,000 for just one surgery at a private institution, according to oncologist Dr Malwinder Singh Sandhu.
As a result, very few private doctors step in when there is a need for their services at public hospitals.
“It is difficult to match the needs of the Health Ministry with the demands of private specialists,” Lee said.
He urged private doctors to offer their services at public hospitals as a public service or a social responsibility. He was responding to a call by Malwinder for the government to introduce a mechanism that makes it easier for private doctors to lend their services at public hospitals to make up for the lack of specialists.
Lee said those who wish to serve in government hospitals could apply through the Health Department in their respective states.
He said the government is prepared to pay for the services in areas where it is short of specialists.
He pointed out that doctors from public hospitals are allowed to offer their services as locum in private institutions as long as it does not interfere with their work. As for specialists, they are allowed to work as locum one day a week apart from weekends.
However, he said, there is no exchange programme between the government and the private sector that could ease the way for doctors from both sides to help each other.
It was recently reported that there were only 115 oncologists in the country, which is less than half the number needed for a population of 30 million.
Ideally, the ratio of oncologists to population should be one to 100,000. Of the 115 oncologists, 68 now work in private medical institutions, 33 work in public hospitals, and the remaining 14 in university-based hospitals.
In the field of palliative medicine, there is a need for at least 218 specialists but there are only 21 of them in the country.
The World Health Organisation has recommended that the ratio of psychiatrists to population should not be less than one to 10,000. However, the current ratio for Malaysia is one to 200,000. To meet the required ratio, the country needs an additional 3,000 psychiatrists.
Lee had recently asked for 10,675 additional posts in government hospitals and clinics to be filled nationwide to meet the increased demand for healthcare.
He said this was to address the shortage of medical personnel, especially in the emergency department.