MY last article regarding the AUCMS loan fiasco attracted some nasty comments from some students. They accused me of insulting them and not understanding their situation. I tried my best to digest what they are trying to say but I simply do not understand what these students really have in their mind. Many don’t seem to understand what I am trying to say. Thus, I thought of putting my thoughts in this article.
3 years ago, I warned many students not to fall into a trap. It was a gentle advise to all those who contacted me and read my blog. Unfortunately, many refuse to listen and decided to go against my advice. When issues happened last year, what can I do? Thus, I said that students being students, they would choose whichever way to achieve their “dreams” without realising the implications in the future. What surprised me the most is the fact that many of them do not know much about the world out there. They don’t read much. One of them said that competition to enter medicine now is beyond Godly? I am still amazed and shocked with the statement. Do they even know what they are talking about? Let me give them the scenario that I went through in my early years of life!
In 1980s, there were only 3 medical schools in this country, namely UM (started 1964), UKM (started 1972) and USM (started 1979). When I achieved 8A1 and 1 A2 in SPM 1989, the only scholarship available was JPA. Unfortunately, we were told point blank straight to our face that JPA scholarship for medicine is only reserved for bumiputera students but we can choose something else. There is NO such thing as PTPTN loan or even bank loan those days. My father was a teacher and my mother housewife, and I am second in my family of three. Just as a reminder, each state will only have 2-3 students scoring 8A1s those days, unlike now where we have hundreds to thousands.
So, what you do then? Most of us had no choice but to proceed with Form 6 as it is the only way to enter public university aka medical schools. Please remember that there was NO such thing as Foundation studies, a short cut to do any degree programs nowadays. It’s either STPM or Matriculation. Matriculation was ONLY reserved for Bumiputera students. It was only after 2003, 10% of the slots were given to Non-Bumiputera students. So, we studied another 2 years and sat for STPM exams, which was considered one of the toughest exams in the world. Public universities practiced quota system based on population ratio. Sixty percent for Bumiputeras, 30% for Chinese and 10% for Indians. So, to get into a public university medical school, you either need to score 5 or 4As in your STPM. Some Indian students could manage to enter with 3As as they need to fill up the quota. The total medical student intake was 180 for UM, 150 for UKM and 110 for USM(Total 440 students). Since I was the only Indian student to score 5As(out of 71 students) on that particular year, I did not have any problem to enter UM medical faculty. That was how tough it was to enter a medical school those days, which obviously the students nowadays do not know anything about. The fact is, it is very much easier to enter medical school now than during my time (late 1980s to late 1990s). Once you are in the public university medical school, you will be given JPA scholarship and bonded for 10 years with the government.
Would I have done something else if I did not get the results needed to do medicine? Yes, I would have. My parents would not be able to send me anywhere else. There were hardly any private colleges except for some offering law degree and no such thing as PTPTN loan either. I would not have burdened my parents with loans. Some did go to India to do medicine, as it was the only place affordable at that time. You must also remember that the economic situation of this country was much better than. Inflation was lower and our currency was much stronger with RM2.50 for 1 US dollar and RM 1.20 for 1 Singapore dollar!! The cost of living was way lower.
As I had said many times before, passion is one thing but living a life is another. Some feel that they should achieve their dream and passion at whatever cost but, from economic point of view, it is being insane. I had said that if you think you have true passion in medicine and feel that you can put up with all the work life challenges that had been listed in this blog, you could go ahead. BUT I also said that you should NEVER take huge loans to do medicine, as it does not make any economic sense! Life starts after you graduate. When you are student, you are still supported by your parents and thus you do not understand the need to work to earn a living and the burden of debt. Medicine is a noble profession but the world is not the same anymore.
When I graduated, I had NO debt! I worked “like a dog” during housemanship with a salary of RM 1695/month (yes, I can still remember this pathetic figure). “On Call” Allowance was RM20/call. You can’t even afford to buy a car. I bought my first car (Proton Wira) during my first year MOship by using all my savings acquired during my housemanship, subsidized by RM 34K government car loan. Woolah, now you realise that RM 500/month goes to pay your car loan for the next 6 years! I drove this car for 9 years. Thankfully, we did not have mobile phones those days and Internet were dial-up service, which does not cost much. Computers were not a necessity yet. Your annual increment was RM72. Then you get married and began to have kids while you are planning for your postgraduate education. You live in a rented house, which would take another RM 600/month with no proper furniture! By the time I finished my MRCP Part 3 (all paid in British pounds : Rm 5.50 to 1 pound), I had a credit card debt of RM 12K which took me almost 4 years to settle. My salary was RM 2200/month after 5 years of service. I told myself that I would not continue with my MRCP if I fail my attempt as I could not afford it anymore with 2 kids need to be fed.
It is during these times, you will realize that passion is one thing but living a life is another. After some time, it is just a job to earn a living. What matters most is how you are going to feed your children and live a life. Only after I pass my MRCP, I decided to buy a house, which I am staying till today. The house will take another RM 1100 of your salary/month for another 30 years. I am still paying till today.
What I am trying to say is, trying to achieve your passion/dreams by taking huge loans will hunt you in the future. Imagine, the day you graduate, you have a loan of RM 300-500K to settle. This does not include the upcoming car loan, house loan etc. Many parents feel that their children are going to earn tons of money immediately after they graduate. Thus, they feel that the loans are worth taking. As I told one of the students who commented that they are from poor family who could not afford to do medicine without the AUCMS loan: Are you going to be any better after you graduate? You are going to be poorer than your parents!
Would you do medicine if I tell you that you will not be paid? Would you do medicine if your starting salary is going to be the lowest among all profession? With all the passion that you have, would you still do it? I still see many grouses about housemanship, mostly about their working life and bullying. I also see many who request the salary to be raised! Where is your passion? Basically, once you start working, you are paid for your work, not for your passion. Would you work 24hrs a day if not going to be paid overtime allowance? (BTW, for those who don’t know, On-Call allowance only started in 1994. Prior to that, you do work for free). As for salary of doctors, in government service and private sector, please read my earlier articles.
I also get comments like “ I want to help people” as the reason for doing medicine. How are you going to help people when you can’t even help yourself? I just replied to a girl who wanted to be a doctor, as she wants to give free treatment to people. She feels that many people are dying because they can’t afford medical treatment and the government sector is too long of a queue for patients to get proper timely treatment. No matter what consultant you are, if I throw you to a place where you do not have any medicines or equipments, you are as good as anyone else standing there! There is no way you will be able to treat anyone without medications/equipment. To do this, you need money! That’s why only less than 20% of hospital bill belongs to a consultant. The rests are for the hospitals to cover the cost of medicines, equipment, consumables etc. Unless you are from a rich family, you cannot run a free service. There are many ways you can help people. Most philanthropists are not doctors. Imagine how many people can you help with the RM 300-500K you are spending to do medicine? How many houses can you build for homeless people? I know many who became rich without even having a degree and helping other people via foundations etc. Do you see any doctors running free clinics? Whether you like it or not, everything needs money nowadays. It is a capitalist world!
I hope I am getting the points across. Passion is one thing but living a life is another. That’s why I had always said that education should NEVER be commercialized. The best and qualified students should be given scholarships or absorbed into public funded universities. Unfortunately, commercialization of education in this country is making each and every student poorer. We are creating a future generation of people in debt.
The government is also heading towards bankruptcy, I guess. Imagine not getting a job to even start paying your debt! Ministry of Health had slashed its budget and streamlining allowances this year as reported over HERE. I heard IJN referrals will not be entertained anymore. All cases can only be referred to MOH hospital’s cardiology centres. Today, I received a report from a whistleblower site that NO NEW government post will be created with immediate effect from 22/04/2015. The letter sounds genuine. Again, what I have been saying all these while is becoming a reality. As a country with the highest number of civil servants per-capita population, it is not sustainable. Eventually, it will collapse as what happened to Greece. As a medical graduate, whatever you had spent will become meaningless if you can’t do your housemanship as you will never be able to practice medicine without it.
The world is changing. I would not have done medicine if I could not get into a public university. I would not have become a specialist if I had failed my MRCP Part 3. I worked hard and finally succeeded. BUT I did not have a huge loan to start with. I did not have to spend on so many necessities as nowadays. I had a wife who supported me by living a simple life: no jewelries’, a rented house with no furniture other than a bed, dining table, TV and fridge, no maid and no parents support. The only debt I had been a car loan and credit card debt which did not even exceed RM40K until I passed my MRCP and decided to buy a house.
I can’t imagine how a student who is graduating with a debt of RM 300-500K ever going to live a life. Passion is one thing, living a life is another! I leave the readers to ponder upon!
No more vacancies — Putrajaya confirms hiring freeze
Tuesday May 5, 2015
KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — The Public Service Commission (PSC) has confirmed that the government is no longer recruiting for any positions effective April.
PSC chairman Tan Sri Mahmood Adam told Sin Chew Daily that the government was not taking in any more people into its service, but declined to explain the rationale for the decision.
Mahmood told the Chinese-language newspaper that 15 agencies, including the police, army and Education ministry, have already received notice of the freeze.
He insisted, however, that agencies that needed emergency replacements could still apply to do so via the Public Service Department.
According to Mahmood, the moratorium does not affect recruitment for vacancies that were advertised prior to the April 22 directive.
His remarks confirm a report by whistleblower website Sarawak Report across the weekend that said Putrajaya was no longer hiring, based on a leaked copy of the memorandum from the PSC.
Malaysia’s civil service force currently costs some RM60 billion in wages annually, accounting for a third of total government spending.
Malaysia also has one of the highest public workers to population ratios in the world.
Putrajaya was forced to reduce its operating budget for 2015 owing to a sharp drop in oil price since last year.