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Continued ……….

Education should never be politicised. Unfortunately, in Malaysia everything is politics unless stated otherwise. When I started my Standard 1 in 1979, the education system had already been converted from English to Bahasa Malaysia. If I am not mistaken, I was the 2nd batch of Standard 1 which was conducted in BM. English was thought as a second language. However, we were still a lucky batch of students as the books were still Cambridge books translated into Malay. Our teachers, almost all of them had excellent English language proficiency as they were educated in English medium. My school was a missionary school which is technically a semi-aided school. I did not see any racial or religious issues within my school. The Malays, Indians and Chinese were all playing, studying and eating together. Our canteen was run by a Chinese family till I completed my Form 6 in 1991. There was no such rule as only Muslims owners can run public canteens. They don’t sell pork or beef to respect everyone’s religious requirements. The vernacular schools on the other end were dying a slow death. Many non-Malays wanted to enrol themselves into national schools as they expected to be treated equally. My father, who was once a Tamil school Headmaster before becoming a national schoolteacher (after doing a degree), decided to send all of us to a national school albeit a missionary school (the top schools at that time). He still says that the reason he did so is to make us Malaysians. Many small Chinese and Tamil schools were on the verge of closing down by late 1980s due to lack of enrolment.

Unfortunately, after 1981 everything changed. The quota system of universities was in full force. MARA colleges and boarding schools were raised everywhere since 1970s to cater for a single race. Scholarships were limited to non-Bumiputras. Civil servants were reserved for a single race. As more and more non-Malay teachers began to retire, the pool of teachers were predominantly Malays by early 2000. Worst still, unemployed graduates were recruited as teachers under KPLI (Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah) program. When my daughter went to Convent JB in 2011, there was only 1 non-Malay teacher in the entire afternoon session!

As I said earlier, the government must lead by example. On one end, you claim vernacular schools are causing disunity but on the other end, you do the same. I remember very clearly how most of my Malay friends disappeared after Standard 5 (before UPSR, lower school exams were held when you were in Standard 5) to MARA colleges, Agama schools, boarding schools and royal military college. Another batch of my remaining Malay friends disappeared after Form 3 SRP exams (PTK equivalent), also to MARA colleges, Agama schools and boarding schools. By the time I reach Form 4, the entire science stream only had 1 Malay student. By Form 6, all my classes were filled with only non-Malays. The remaining Malays who use to come from other schools to my school for Form 6 Science classes disappeared within 2 months, as they enrolled into university run matriculation system. Mind you, my school (St Paul’s Institution) was one of the premier top schools in Negeri Sembilan. By removing the Malay students to agama schools, boarding schools, MARA colleges and Matriculation, the government was basically doing the same. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore took 20 years to abolish the vernacular schools in Singapore. Did he do it overnight by just banning the schools? Nope. He created a merit-based system, a common language of English with mother tongue language as mandatory 2nd language, offered scholarship to Chinese school top scorers to move to national schools which is valid till they reach university, no religious elements in school curriculum etc. The vernacular schools died a natural death. You can read this in his book “My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore’s Bilingual Journey”.

By mid 1990s, many non-Malay parents were moving their children back to vernacular schools. A new national education system was introduced in 1983 known as KBSR and KBSM. Religious education was made a mandatory subject for Muslims and as part of the national curriculum. Prior to this, it was not part of the national education curriculum. We had a period, if I can remember, once or twice a week known as POL (People’s own language) classes. The Muslims will go to Pengajian Agama Islam class whereas the Indians will go to Tamil classes and Chinese to Chinese classes. I grew up in this system and KBSR and KBSM did not affect me as it only affected those who started their Standard 1 in 1983 onwards. When KBSR and KBSM was introduced, these POL classes were abolished and replaced with Pendidikan Moral for the non-Muslims. The mother tongue language classes were abolished for good under the new national education policy known as KBSR and KBSM. Some schools still continued with these as an optional out of ordinary classes. These were done after school hours. Language is an asset to a country but we decided to do the opposite.

With the formal introduction of religious education into our education system from 1983 onwards, the national schools slowly but surely were moving towards a monoethnic and mono religious centric schools. The Ustaz and Ustazah became very influential. MOE barred any other religious events or celebration in schools by 1990s. Openly telling the Muslims students that non-Muslims are kafirs who only deserve to go to hell were a norm. Islamic religious activities were held openly including saying daily prayers during assembly. The non-Muslims became very anxious, uneasy and started to move their kids out of the national schools. Religion should never be part of any official education system. It only serves to divide people. By 2000s, these phenomena had become toxic enough that many decided not to even send their children to national schools.

What options does these parents had? The cheapest option is to send to vernacular schools. Vernacular schools were becoming very popular and some schools did not even have enough classes to accommodate everyone. Schools that were on the verge of shutting down by early 1990s got a new lifeline. Many non-Chinese, including the Malays began to send their children to Chinese medium schools. If I am not mistaken, the current statistics shows that close to 20% of students in Chinese schools are non-Chinese.

By 2004 under the leadership of our new PM Abdullah Badawi, another new “education policy” started to take place. International schools which were once only available for expats or to students who had at least 1 parent being a foreigner, were allowed to take Malaysian citizens. It started with 30% quota but by 2008, almost 100% of the students can be Malaysians. These created another mess in our education system. Mushrooming of private and international schools started. It’s all about making money, I guess. Now, we not only have racially and religiously divided nation by education but also a class divide. The “Bangsa Malaysia” of Wawasan 2020 were just going down the drain. So, whoever who claim that the vernacular schools are the cause of disunity, think again. Digest what had happened and look at yourself. Assimilation will NEVER occur if everyone is not treated equally. That’s the reality.

To be continued……………….

continued.……….

While many countries in the world were attracting the best brains, we were happily removing them. The biggest beneficiary of our best brains was Singapore. Singapore, a country without any natural resources has to depend on its best brains to become a regional business, financial and research centre. They knew the only way to survive and develop is via knowledge-based economy or k-economy. They started their Asean scholarship program in the 80s to attract the best brains of the region to come and study in their university and be bonded to work in Singapore for at least 7-10 years (no one leaves after that). Those who enrol into their university by merit were also given scholarship with a bond. These not only attracted the best brains to study, work and remain in Singapore but also made their universities, one of the best in the world. Across the causeway, we were doing the opposite. We chased away the best brains using race factor. We sent our best students of certain race to overseas countries to study via MARA and JPA scholarship, instead of retaining them in the country. Many never returned back to serve the country. MARA loans/scholarship never had any bond with the government. I have seen many Malays who were under MARA and JPA scholarship happily working in Australia, UK, Ireland and New Zealand till today. As far as I know, neither MARA nor JPA had ever released the figures of how many remained overseas upon completing their education. It was only in 2016 when JPA decided to stop sending students overseas (except for those courses that are not available locally and the top 50 students) but indeed sponsored them locally in private universities. MARA was still sending students overseas but gradually reduced those who were sent to western developed countries due to cost.

Australia removed their all-white policy in 1973 and started their planned migration policy. The motto was “either you populate or perish”. They started one of the best migration policies in the world, attracting skilled workers into the country. Skilled workers, especially of young age were automatically given residency status even before they sat foot into the country. They were given the same benefit as the citizens, minus eligibility to vote. Racial Discrimination Act was passed in 1976. In 2001, they allowed dual citizenship. For those who are working in Australia under other visas, they were given residency status (PR) in 2 years. Due to some abuse of the system, it has now been extended to 3 years since 2018. And after 4 years of residency in total (including the 3 years of stay for PR), you are eligible to apply for citizenship. In Malaysia, we were too proud of our nationalism. I had foreign friends who were married to Malaysians who received their PR status after more than 10 years, going up and down the immigration office multiple times and being insulted several times. Till then they had to renew their social visa yearly which do not allow them to work unless you are granted a work permit.  These were skilled professionals. We were going into negative balance. The best leaving the country, none coming into the country. I have seen some comments saying, who said people are not rushing to Malaysia to work, look at the number of foreign workers in Malaysia! They forgot one thing for sure, these are unskilled labour force! They don’t contribute anything to the country except building structures. Do they pay tax? Do they provide any intellectual ideas? Nope. They are lowly paid untrained labourers, and they send their money back to their homeland, outflow of money.

By mid 1990s, Malaysia was a rich country. We had all the natural resources that was giving us all the money we wanted. We had industries coming and investing in Malaysia. Our surrounding neighbours except Singapore and Thailand were in turmoil. Indonesia was facing dictatorship of Suharto (till 1998), Philippines was being swindled by Marcos and family till late 1980s (still suffering from its aftermath for past 30 years), Vietnam recovering from war, Cambodia was recovering from civil war, Burma was under military rule and China was just starting its open market policy in early 1980s. We were plain lucky to be able to attract investment with a good english speaking professionals, good infrastructure etc. Unfortunately, we did not have skilled workers or even the labour force as the time went by (people refuse to work in these sectors due to low pay). The investors had no choice but to import foreign workers which resulted in more money than expected being spent. Corruption in the civil service increased the cost further. We did not have minimum wage policy till 2018. We were in the middle-income trap. Instead of investing in k-economy, we were more interested in keeping cost low so that investors will come into the country. We were more interested in having grandiose and delusional ideas of building the tallest, biggest, longest this and that when other countries have moved way beyond that philosophy. Buildings do not make you a developed country, knowledge does. Cronyism became rampant and millions were lost. Unfinished projects were a norm, but the money was gone. All in the name of supporting Bumiputera entrepreneurs. That’s why it is known as “piratisation”! By 1999, when the Asian Financial crisis happened, we were doomed. We never actually recovered since.

Within the country, we were more interested in privatisation, or shall I say “piratisation”. Education and Health should be government’s responsibility. Instead of building more hospitals and recruiting more brains, we were more interested in allowing private hospitals to mushroom. Almost all private hospitals in Malaysia are GLC owned aka government owned, basically government’s left pocket! The public health system was stretched to the maximum with minimum number of staffs to run it, the effect of which can be seen now during the COVID outbreak. “You tak suka, you boleh keluar” motto prevails. Many of the best brains again left to the private sector and overseas. Doctors demanding higher pay? we shall flood the market with doctors! Then came the mushrooming of private medical colleges, which can even run in a shop lot complexes (the first in the world). We currently have the highest number of medical schools’ per capita population in the world. I had written enough about this for the past 10 years. Whatever I predicted since 2006 has come true. I shall not repeat those over here. We are in total mess. The dire need of our healthcare system was exposed by a virus. We are like an emperor with no cloths!

To Be Continued……………

** a word of caution : this blog post is a general statement /opinion of mine based on facts, looking at what is happening in Malaysia, the country where I grew up. There are sensitive issues discussed, which people may or may not agree. Just keep an open mind and think deeply. It will be in several parts, ending with my story………….***

I was 19 years old when I was sitting in the Parliament on 17/06/1991 listening to our then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad launching the Dasar Pembangunan Nasional (DPN). It was the replacement for Dasar Ekonomi Baru(DEB) which was a 20-year plan introduced in 1971. I was in Upper Six at St Paul’s Institution, Seremban and this was our educational tour as part of our “Pengajian Am” subject. DPN supposed to be part of Wawasan 2020 (1991-2020) to elevate us from a developing country to a developed country. Wawasan 2020 was just introduced 5 months prior on 28/02/1991.

At that young age, listening to the word “Bangsa Malaysia” and becoming a high-income nation was mesmerising. As a student, I wasn’t very much interested in politics then, except to accept the fact that we have something known as Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera terminology. I know that we need to fight to enter local public universities just among the non-Bumiputeras, due to quota system. Among the 3 of my school’s Form 6 Science classes there was only 1 Malay student. Every Malay science student was accepted into matriculation after completing SPM. We accepted the fact that we have to fight for whatever we need as we will never be treated the same. But Wawasan 2020 gave us some hope.

Along the way, the country took the wrong direction. Instead of uniting the people as a single race, we decided to divide it further. Instead of building more public universities to cater for all citizens, we decided to keep the quota system and different entry system into the public universities. We decided to privatise education in 1997 to make more money and to make every single citizen of the country to become a debtor, by making someone else rich. PTPTN was established for both private and public university students. Generally public university fees are heavily subsidised and most do not need to take any loans. Civil service, which forms the backbone of a nation was pre-determined to be run by a single race. From a 40% non-Bumiputera containing civil service in 1970s, we became almost 95% (some say 98%) consisting of a single race. To provide more jobs to people, we became one of the largest civil service in the world, based on population ratio. The financial burden to the country was and is exorbitant.

Malaysia was considered as one of the most successful post-independence countries in the world. Within 30 years after our independence in 1957, we were the most progressive and industrialised country in SEA. We discovered oil in 1970s and formed Petronas in 1974. By the 1980s, we were an oil producing nation. This, together with rubber and oil palm were already making Malaysia a rich country. With industrialisation and investment from Japan etc, we were going in the right direction. We were known as the Tiger of Asia! BUT we have forgotten an important part of our history! Migrants!

One of the reasons I always ask my kids to read about history (not for exams but for knowledge) is because through history you will learn how not to repeat a history. History teaches us a lesson so that we do not do the same thing again. Unfortunately, history nowadays is thought in school as just a “point form” text to pass exams. During my time in 1980s, history books are like story books, not in “point forms”. If anyone bother to read history, you will know that the most successful countries in this world are countries who embraced migrants. They made migrants as part of their country and equal citizens. Every country that chased away migrants after independence has collapsed. Look at the African countries which did this after their independence from colonial power. Every one of them went downhill. Zimbabwe chased away all the whites who were doing farming. It was the biggest agricultural producing nation in Africa at that time. See where they are now. All these farming lands were taken over by cronies of Robert Mugabe and successfully destroyed it for money. Sounds familiar?

Malaysia was gifted with almost 40-45% migrant population at independence. These were migrants who were brought by the British to work at mining sites, roads, railways, plantation etc. They worked hard for pea nut money, many died of infectious diseases but without these migrants, Malaysia would not have been where it was 30 years ago. My grandparents worked in rubber plantations, roads and railways. When they were given citizenship, they were happy and continued to dedicate their life serving the country in whatever capacity they could. The Chinese even helped the military and police to defeat the communist. Who worked as spies for the Malaysian police and military? Without the Chinese help in Malaysia, it would have been impossible to defeat the communist. Malaysia was one of the most successful country in the world to defeat communism. Who thought the children in schools? It was the missionaries and Indians. Most of our teachers in 1970s and 1980s were non-Malays. My Headmaster was an Irish missionary guy, Bro James Macken. Did they not teach our children without any prejudice etc? Racial and religious matters were never an issue. What happened?

In 1981, someone took over the reign of our country. He was a smart doctor and a cunning politician. His motto is very simple. Malaysia belongs to the Malays. Thus, everything that represent Malaysia should be by the Malays (please read his autobiography). These includes the civil service, military, police and sports. Have you ever wondered why we were once a football powerhouse of Asia in 1970s up to mid 1980s, after which we just went downhill? Politics! Many politicians were appointed to sporting agencies. Their duty is to make sure that majority of those who represent Malaysia in sports must come from a single race. Token of appreciation can be given to a few non-Malays. The non-Malays can do whatever they want in the private sector and the government will collect their taxes. Malaysia is the only country in the world that I know which has a different tax structure for civil servants and the rest of the population. Civil servants do not pay any tax for their allowances, which most of the time can be higher than their basic pay (which is the taxable income). But this blame does not go to Dr M. It was by his successor Abdullah Badawi. The government should always set an example as being fair to everyone. Unfortunately, in Malaysia that is not the case.

Nothing was based on merit. Quota system was introduced in the universities in late 1970s (guess who was the education minister?). Matriculation was introduced as a short cut pathway into university for certain race (he himself had admitted this in 2018!). We even have a race-based University, funded by the government via tax payers money! Talent and merits were thrown into the drain, not only in civil service, sports, university intellectuals, graduates but in almost everything that made Malaysia great once. All in the pretext that Malays can do it if given the opportunity (from his autobiography) aka short-cuts. He undermined the very capability of the Malays to succeed on merit. Crony businessmen cropped up overnight with directly negotiated contracts. Open tender became a dirty word. Many instant millionaires of a particular race were created, all in the name of creating Malay entrepreneurs to compete with the Chinese. Did these people help the rest? History would have given you the answer by now. He was a man in a hurry.

In the process, he wasn’t interested on what the non-Bumiputeras wanted. You want to go to university; I give you private university. Sorry, overseas scholarship is not for you except for a few tokens of appreciation. Overseas JPA scholarship to do Medicine and Dentistry was only reserved for Bumiputera till late 1990s. Lower merit individual from certain race were given priority. Obviously, migrants will always find a way around. They will work hard and sell whatever they have to educate their children. They will send their children overseas and ask them not to come back etc. The exodus started in 1980s and still ongoing. Many best brains left the country gradually, not that they want to, but forced to. Our failure is another country’s gain. I wonder why our newspapers keep reporting of “Malaysian born” so and so is a Hollywood director, international star etc. They have left Malaysia and are not even a Malaysian citizen anymore. If at all, we should be ashamed that they did not achieve this for Malaysia. Why did we chase them to be somewhere else achieving their glory?

TO BE CONTINUED………………………………

Five years ago I wrote an article in my blog ” Patient’s Confidentiality and Autonomy” . It was about an article in the Malay Mail discussing on the issue of doctors posting confidential informations of patients being treated in hospital and using it to make remarks against certain group of people on Facebook etc. I wrote in detail my opinions on these matters and did warn the doctors that every patient has the right to choose what they want. Our job is to educate and advise, period. I wrote this same article in my books that was published in June 2016 (Chapter 9, page 185). Along the way I had written numerous articles on issues of doctors and social media. Interestingly, the exact issue that I spoke about in 2015 has taken a centre stage again, over the past 1 week.

We as doctors should learn to control our emotions. The public look at us as a highly educated person and we should not tarnish our names by making mocking or defamatory statement to any particular individuals, especially if we do not know the exact details of a case or never involved in it etc. Making general statements are fine. The issue that has been circulating around over the past 1 week started in early 2018, almost 3 years after i wrote my article. The court has decided that the said doctor has made defamatory statement against an individual and was asked to pay RM 230K in total, as damages and legal cost. I do not want to discuss in detail about this court case unless I have the detail judgement, which may only be released at a much later date.

What I want to talk about are comments made by many medical practitioners claiming that doctors have now lost the ability to advise people on quack practitioners, medical notes are neglected as evidence in courts etc. Some even gone to the extend of saying that doctors should be protected from being sued by member of the public for trying to protect the public from quack practitioners.

Firstly, let me explain that a defamation case is NOT a medico-legal case. In a medico-legal case, your case notes becomes a hardcore evidence against a negligent suit. Medico-legal cases/notes are only applicable from the time the patient seeks your treatment till the time the so-called negligence happens and so forth. The court will take the medical notes as evidence. So, if the patient has lied to you, they cannot turn the case against you as our management plan depends on what patient informs you. The legal test used to determine negligence is way different than a defamatory case.

In a defamation case, you need to proof that the accusation you have levelled against an individual is, on a balance of probabilities, true and proven. The legal test used is totally different than a medico-legal suit. So, when a doctor accuses a member of public of something serious, like causing death of a baby etc, she need to proof this statement in court. Can the medical note be used as an evidence?

My answer is NO, especially if you are not even involved personally in this case. Anything that happened outside a hospital/medical facility is hearsay. That’s the reason when a patient comes to emergency department and says that she/he met with an accident, we say ” Alleged MVA”. This is because we don’t know whether what the patient tells you is the truth and nothing but the truth, as proclaimed in court of law. No such proclamation is made when a patient comes to hospital. That’s also the reason why we always say ” claimed by patient” in our history taking. I hope the medical schools are still teaching this, as I learned it when I was a medical student.

Now, let’s go back to this particular case in general. The case revolves around a doctor who supposedly made remarks on FB against another “complimentary medicine” practitioner, accusing that the said practitioner caused the death of a child. I can vaguely remember the hot issue that was circulating at that time in regards to this case. The doctor made direct accusation and thus, it can definitely be deemed defamatory. No two way about it. If it was a general advisory statement without pointing to any particular person directly or indirectly, then it is not an issue and cannot be deemed defamatory.

Anything that happens outside of an hospital have to be reported to the relevant authorities to investigate. For example, if we suspect child abuse, we need to report to the police and social welfare department. It is up to these departments to take further actions. Just because the child said that she has been abused to you, it does not mean she is telling the truth and we should not depend on that story to throw accusation to anyone. Our job is to report. If we accuse so and so as responsible based on what the child said but subsequent investigations by police showed otherwise, you are liable for defamation and you can never win. Similarly, if any patients makes public accusation against a doctor in social media etc, you have every right to sue them. However, if the patient makes a report to MMC and MMC finds you not guilty, you can’t sue the patient, as she has made the right move. This is similar of us making a police report when we suspect something. The person cannot sue you for making the report.

In this particular case, police reports were made by both MOH and the person being accused of killing the child (directly or indirectly), who is the plaintiff in this case. Unfortunately, police investigations found no evidence that the plaintiff was responsible for the death of the child. This alone is enough to proof that the statement made by the doctor is defamatory. Some said that the mother lied in court and changed her statement, comparing to what was recorded in medical notes. Again, what the mother told the doctor is considered hearsay as it happened outside the hospital. In my 24 years of medical practise, I have seen countless number of patients not telling the truth. Many at times, they make up stories so that you don’t scold them or find them stupid. In the court of law, it is up to the defence lawyers to proof that the person is a liar and to expunge the entire witness statement. Till the judgement details are out, we would not know what happened in the court. I understand the said plaintiff in this case has also won another case in Shah Alam against a doctor as well, who supposedly did not turn up in court to defend himself.

Many young doctors out there do not understand the field of medicine. Defamation and medical negligent cases are 2 different entity. Medical notes evidence is only valid for something that happened within the medical facility, aka from the time the patient come to you. It is only applicable for treatment related issues. Secondly, what patient tells you is confidential and cannot be made public. A doctor who accuses someone publicly of wrongdoing by using this case notes has technically breached patient confidentiality. He or she can be reported to MMC. So, be very careful when you make emotional post on social media on certain issues when it involves specific patient etc. I have written an article on this in 2018.

Some doctors have said that they will stop advising the public against going to traditional practitioners to prevent being sued. Again, many don’t understand the scenario. You can always advise and educate the public in general terms. But what you can’t do is directly accusing someone of doing something. That is defamatory unless you have solid proof. Please do not forget that despite all the advise and education, it is every patient’s right to follow or not to follow. You can’t push your ideas into anyone even if it is based on solid evidence. Always remember your medical ethics: patient’s autonomy. My article in 2015 had explained this in detail.

Our country is in a mess right now and the world is in recession. I know this year’s Deepavali would be uneventful to many. However, I would still like to wish ” Happy Deepavali” for all those who are celebrating at home.

 

Recently I took part in one of the discussion in DOBBS forum in regards to contract doctors. I attach the video above for those who are interested to know how the discussion went about.

 

 

I have finally reached another milestone ……… as of 13/01/2020, my blog is 10 years old! Over the past 10 years, I have written hundreds of articles and even published 2 books from these articles! I probably achieved my wawasan by educating the public on what medical field is all about and how the world is changing.

My last article was written on 24/12/2019, just before the new year started. It has been almost 5 months now and the world has changed. In just a short period of time, our lives have gone upside down and we are still looking at months down the line before everything comes back to normal. 2020 suppose to be the year where Wawasan 2020 should have been achieved, transforming Malaysia into a developed nation, but unfortunately we are in a mess with recession coming soon, if not already. We have had 5 months of political drama and a brainless RNA virus terrorising the world. Let’s start with where I left you on 24/12/2019……

Critical Allowance

Based on JPA circular dated 20/12/2019, critical allowance for all new appointments into MOH will be removed. As I mentioned in my article, it is rather unfair when those who are already in the system will continue to receive the allowance but the new ones will be without the allowance. I said unfair because everyone is doing the same job and same amount of work. It does not make any logical sense, while I did predict and expected the allowance to go one day when we have more body than post. Following this announcement, there were huge outcries from various organisation and members of the public. Thus, on 9th January 2020, this proposal was postponed for further review, scheduled to be updated by end of this year. REMEMBER, it is only postponed and not cancelled!

U41 Contract Renewal

As I have written in several articles towards the end of last year, the number of permanent appointments given out following completion of housemanship has been dwindling down from about 500 for the first batch(December 2018 cohort) to almost 0 in subsequent batch(May 2019). This is again not unexpected. KKM simply do not have enough post to offer everyone. The slides below is self explanatory…..

It is very clear that KKM do not have any post to even offer permanent positions. Thus, almost everyone will be given an extended contract which will be the final contract before you say sayonara to KKM. The issue of being offered U41 post instead of U44 has not been resolved either, despite promising to do so in November 2019 by the cabinet, KKM and JPA. The new contracts are still renewed at U41 as of April 2020. On 29th October 2019, I wrote this :

The best is yet to come: those who receive extension of contract can remain at the same place where they were transferred as a floating officer! In another word (the way I interpret this), your life in civil service ends there within another year aka completing 4 years of compulsory service. It’s just a diplomatic way of putting it !

Interestingly, this is now proven true when the newer contract renewals categorically says that ” this will be the last contract!” ………

So, basically whoever received the U41 contract extension of 2 years, after their 3 year initial housemen contract, have to start planning their future. I believe this clause was added after the Sarawak doctors debacle that was publicised widely in newspapers in January 2020. These were doctors who returned from overseas in 2017 and was given a 2 year contract to complete their compulsory service. Unfortunately , they were told that their contract would not be renewed. To be frank, no contract is permanent. A contract is a contract and the employer can decide not to renew your contract once it expires. It is the same in any profession including the medical profession. Even in private hospitals, the hospital can decide not to renew your contract if they feel they do not need your service anymore or simply, if they don’t like your face!. It has happened before and there is nothing you can do about it. There is a clear difference between ” termination” and “non-renewal of contract”. While the Sarawak doctor’s contract were finally renewed, to avoid any such scenarios happening again, JPA has now clearly stated the above clause in the newer contracts. So, now no one can claim ignorance.

What about those who received a permanent post? Again, they were given a U41 post! However, they were told that this is due to technical reasons. The U41 permanent post will be backdated to the day they started housemanship and soon, they will receive their promotion to U44 backdated to the day they completed housemanship. Whether this has happened with all the chaos that is going on now, I do not know! We shall wait and see.

In a sudden turn of events in April 2020, about 102 permanent post were created in Sarawak. This could be part of about 1000 post that suppose to be created over the next few years as I wrote in December 2019. So, about 102 of them were sent an urgent email early April 2020 offering them this permanent post in Sarawak and NO appeal will be entertained……..

Whether there is a political reason for this, I got no idea. Based on the report by Codeblue, about 28 of them declined the offer and decided to stay on their final contract appointments. We just have to face the fact that the government will never be able to absorb all graduates. With the current economic situation, the scenario will only get worst. No job is guaranteed in this world. What is happening in Malaysia, is also happening in many developed countries but at-least, these countries have a better control over the number of graduates being produced, unlike Bolehland.

COVID-19

The world is yet again faced with another Pandemic. I would say that this is the 4th viral outbreak I am facing in my 23 years working as a doctor. It started with SARS in 2003 followed by H1N1, MesCOV and now COVID 19. Facing these viruses or any infectious diseases are part of our occupational hazard. I know many doctors who have contracted infectious diseases and some even succumbed to the illness. So, those who think that doctor’s job is sitting in a cozy room and earning big bucks, please think again. We are not only at risk of being infected with a disease but also high litigation rate and verbal insults.

We may be considered as a hero at the moment for tirelessly facing this pandemic. But trust me, once all this is over, we will be back to square one. No one will even remember what you did. That is the reality out there. But COVID 19 also thought us a lot of other lessons. The Earth is breathing better and animals seem to be enjoying their life. We must understand that the entire ecological system on Earth lives in a balance. It evolved over millions of years keeping everything in an absolute balance. The very fact that we produce CO2 and plants converts it back to O2 proves this balance. BUT humans are always greedy. We feel we can do anything to mother earth and get away with it. I had always said this to my children ” Never play with nature, take care of it. If not, nature will always get back to you!” COVID 19 just proves how nature can get back to you. A simple brainless RNA virus can shut down everything on EARTH! Viruses have been around before humans came about. So, never play with nature. Stop destroying nature and learn to live in harmony. As Sir David Attenborough said in one of his famous documentary “ If you kill a whale in the ocean, the entire ocean ecology changes!” If there are no animals which eat insects, the world will be overrun by insects, which by the way have the highest population number in the world.

What else has this pandemic thought us? Good hygiene and social distancing keep doctors away! Many would have realised that there has been 70-80% drop in the number of cases attending private hospitals and GP clinics. Some GP clinics have even decided to close their clinic as their income has dropped drastically. It is better to close than to continue to maintain the running of the clinic. Private consultant’s income has definitely taken a beating. With lock-down, there were hardly any accidents. People were afraid to go to hospitals as they were worried of getting infected in the hospital. Social distancing, stay at home and good hygiene has drastically dropped the rate of infectious diseases like URTI, respiratory infections and gastroenteritis which generally forms the bulk of private hospitals admissions. Elective cases has also been postponed. It just shows that any job can be affected if something like this happens. It happens in all outbreaks but COVID 19 has been the worst. The only job which will continue to be not affected are civil service jobs! The government has no choice but to keep civil service running and paid. While you may end up taking a pay cut eventually, you will still get paid. In fact you will even get Raya goodies!

BTW, KKM has also offered 6 months contract jobs for those who are interested to be the frontliners. Specialist will be paid RM 12K/month and MOs will be paid RM 6K/month. I understand the offer is not available anymore. I heard some GPs did take up the offer.

Democracy

On 9th May 2018, everyone thought that Malaysia has woken up. In my article titled ” Towards Malaysia Baru?” on 4th June 2018, I wrote this

With all the euphoria that we are having now, it is just too early to say how this new government will perform. Statistic shows that Pakatan only received 48% of the votes with BN & PAS taking 52% of the votes. Pakatan won in many areas due to split votes. PAS benefited from split votes in Kelantan and Terengganu. Personally, I feel that the Pakatan government is not really in a very stable situation. Tides can change by next election if they do not outperform the previous government by leaps and bounds.

Again my words have come through! One of my friends told me to stop predicting anything as everything I predict seem to be happening again and again. The Sheraton move on 27/02/2020 and subsequent fall of PH is something I expected to happen sooner or later. The politics in Malaysia is as such. Everything is tied to race and religion. Whoever plays the right card, will win. Who cares about corruption and good governance? Whatever said and whatever mockery that has happened to Malaysian democracy, the country seem to be going downhill. Years of brain drain and racial politics will only take this country to the dungeon. With COVID 19, fall in oil price and dry coffers, we are surely heading into a recession and disaster. Never in world history I have heard of a 1 day Parliament sitting with nothing more than the royal address! It is the joke of the century.

After 10 years of writing this blog, I hope readers would have learnt something. My predictions are all based on facts and statistics. It is not rocket science!

Have a blessed Ramadan and SELAMAT HARI RAYA………………………. a different Raya I must say………….

It has been more than a month since I last wrote an article which caused a storm among the medical fraternity. My article prompted Codeblue to publish what I had written, in their portal, which was subsequently brought to the attention of the Minister. During the initial press conference , MOH officials claimed that the salary difference between U41 and U44/43 contract officers are merely RM100-200 which is definitely not correct. The total difference when allowances are included will be in the range of RM 1000. Subsequently MMA made several press statements and had several meetings with MOH and MOF. After much discussion, MOH/Cabinet sort of agreed that they will “discuss” with JPA to renew the contract under U43/44 for those who have completed housemanship and did not receive permanent position. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, till today no such change has been made. Probably they are still discussing.

Subsequently, the cabinet has agreed for approval of new posts for MOH which has been frozen since 2014. The new posts will be for the newer facilities that are in the pipeline for MOH. On 2/12/2019, JPA issued a circular that about 10 675 new posts will be created for MOH within the next couple of years. Before everyone get excited, please be informed that these posts include all category of staffs. I was informed that only about 1000 post are for doctors. With 5-6000 doctors graduating annually, it is once again very obvious that most of the graduates will not be receiving a permanent post in KKM. The Minister once again has reiterated this in the Parliament few weeks ago that MOH will not be able to provide jobs to all graduates. It is a fact and it is also the fact in many other countries.

Then, out of no where, the cabinet suddenly decided that doctor’s consultation fees (not procedure fee) will be deregulated. This caught everyone by surprise as the GPs have been fighting to increase their regulated fee for years. I have written  about this few months ago. Just before the decision, MMA was informed that the government did not agree to increase the fee. However, I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg that we are seeing. I feel something big is coming along the way. With doctors flooding the market by 2020, the government got nothing to loose. Doctors will be undercutting and fighting among themselves to survive. If doctors are not united (which has never been) the biggest beneficiary would be TPAs/Insurance companies. Now, these fellows will go around doctor shopping for the best rate in town. It is called market force. Let the market force decide! With the deregulation, all clinics must display their consultation charges clearly in their clinic for patients to decide whether they want to see the doctor or not. It will become an offence if you don’t do so. I smell something is coming………… the Sith lords are never without a bigger plan………

Over the last 10-15 years, many of my predictions have come true. Mushrooming of medical schools producing thousands of medical graduates with questionable quality flooding the market and eventual unemployment in civil sector was predicted by me almost 15 years ago. It is all based on simple mathematical calculation. I am not Nostradamus! Limited postgraduate pathways due to this has been mentioned many times by me. I also spoke about the increasing waiting time for internship and internship under contract in 2014 when the actual implementation came about in 2016. Almost everything eventually happened, just the timing varied. In my MMA article 2011 & 2012 and my blog posts as well as in my books (2016), I had said that there will come a time when the Critical allowance for doctors will be removed! Critical allowance is given when you have more post than body. It is reviewed every 5 years. It use to be 5% of your basic salary till 2001 when it was increased to RM 500 by the Finance Minister who was also the PM at that time , who is also our current PM! He is also responsible in introducing this allowance when SSB was announced in 1992. Subsequently, these amount was increased to RM 750 in 2007 when the last review was undertaken.

On 20/12/2019, once again my prediction has come true. JPA issued a circular dated 20/12/2019 stating that the Critical allowance will be removed for all new appointments effective 1/01/2020. WAWASAN 2020 has been achieved! We have enough doctors to serve, we have enough civil servants, no category is considered critical anymore as we have more bodies than post. Unfortunately, we are not a developed nation yet! Interestingly, the PM who initiated Wawasan 2020 lived long enough to see himself becoming the PM again in 2020, not achieving what he envisioned. What is rather amusing is the fact that those who are already in service will continue to receive the RM750 critical allowance till they retire or resign. So, the newcomers will be doing the same amount of work but receiving a lower pay. But then, “you tak suka, you boleh keluar bukak klinik lor…………” it is called market force……….. supply and demand, more supply than demand, employer calls the shot! You have to thank your lucky stars to be even given a job!

Hit me with all your anger, use your lightsaber and I shall become stronger and the most powerful resurrected Sith of all time………

Welcome to the Rise of Palpatine …………………. where the dark lord rules………………once and for all…………..

 

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year 2020…………………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote my last article on 29/10/2019, throwing a question whether our junior doctors are facing a tragedy or a comedy. I modified the sentence, from the highest grossing R-Rated movie of all time, currently playing in cinemas: JOKER. “I use to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realised it’s a comedy”.  In that article I explained the letter issued by MOH dated 30/09/2019 on the status of floating doctors. I said, those who receive an extension of contract will likely see their final journey in civil service. The end of that contract will be their end of a job in civil service. It looks like my interpretation of the letter was subsequently confirmed by our Health Minister in the Parliament, just 2 days later, on 31/10/2019:

 

 

 

He has also quoted some interesting figures during his answer in Parliament. As of 31/08/2019, we have 15 246 contract officers! In 2019 alone, we have 4 202 new contract officers and 2 515 are waiting to be appointed between November 2019 to February 2020. This figures are nothing unexpected. Since I started this blog, I had warned that this is going to happen. I first raised this issue in 2006 when I wrote an article to MMA Magazine . The mushrooming of medical schools without proper human resource planning will only lead to disaster. I have spoken about this for umpteenth years and thus I would not go into it again. We are producing about 4-5 000 graduates per year (35 medical schools locally and from overseas) when we have already reached a doctor: population ratio of 1:580 last year! The peak has not even arrived! The idea of contract post has a 2 prong strategy. Firstly, you can kick out those who are not performing and another is to allow you to complete your housemanship and compulsory service. This is similar to any developed country, jobs are never guaranteed but they will provide you with an internship post under contract as it is a statutory requirement to be eligible for full registration. However in Bolehland, transparency has never been in their dictionary. Below is a circular that was issued some time ago on how they expect to evaluate those who will receive permanent post and those who will receive a contract extension. REMEMBER, ultimately it also depends on availability of permanent post, as I wrote in 2016.

 

 

 

In June 2019, the first batch of contract housemen (who completed housemanship in December 2018) received their long awaited letter from KKM…….

 

 

While almost 1000 applied, only about 500 received permanent post and about 50 received extension of contract. In September, I heard another 175 received extension of contract. As per the letter above and my previous article, those who received permanent post got transferred “mengikut keperluan”. The worst is yet to come! Two days ago, I received information via this blog that those who got the extension of contract just received their official contract 2 weeks ago. The contract is extended from 5/12/2019(the day the first 3 years contract ends) to 4/12/2021 which is another 2 years. So, the total contract years will be 5 years. The shocking part, which I never expected was the fact that THIS CONTRACT KEEPS THEM AT THE SAME PAY GRADE AS A HOUSEMEN, WHICH IS U41, contrary to my understanding that it should have been U44 !!!

Yes, before the year 2010, most of us will remain in U41 (or U3 as it was known before 2001) for few years after completing housemanship with just annual increment. But in 2010, under the new promotional prospect for doctors in civil service (which I personally wrote during a SCHOMOS forum with KKM in 2006) , all those who complete housemanship will be promoted to U44 from the day of receiving full registration. While those who received permanent post got promoted to U44, those who receive contract extension seem to be “dianak tirikan ” ……………..

 

 

 

I find this totally atrocious! If a person is going to work as a medical officer and doing the same job as another permanent U44 officer, they should receive the same pay! Yes, they should thank their lucky stars that they have a job but we should never discriminate them by paying them lower than the rest. Unless you are transparent enough to say publicly than these guys had such a poor performance that they are not fit to hold a U44 post( that we are just doing a charity work by extending their contract to complete their compulsory service), everyone should be treated the same. Under labour law, can this be considered “forced labour”? BTW, our country’s international standing in labour law is not that great either.

For those who are unaware, SPA/JPA has been requesting to remove compulsory service over the past few years as they know they can’t provide jobs to everyone. However, it will be a disaster to do so, with many having a license to kill, out there. Completing housemanship do not make you competent enough to manage patients without any supervision. MMC has refused to comply to their request as it affects public safety. MMC’s motto is ” safeguarding patients and guiding doctors”. That’s why compulsory service is important, not just to comply with legal requirement but also to make you competent enough to practise on your own.

Whatever said, we should accept the fact that no job is guaranteed. No government guarantees you a job either. People should not assume that just because they are spending RM 500K to make their child a doctor, your investment is going to produce a guaranteed job and tons of money/return. Those eras are gone for good. However, these poor souls became a victim of poor human resource planning (which does not exist in Bolehland dictionary) and a capitalist world where commercialisation of medical education became a money making business!

I was also informed that from now onwards, the number of floating doctors who will receive permanent post will further decline due to availability of post. Remember, 15K is waiting in line! BTW, please be informed that compulsory service is only for 4 years ( 2 years HO and 2 years Mo), so you can leave before you finish your 5 years (after a total of 4 years). The question is : to where? Some can consider university hospitals but they too have their limits. Not to mention that contract officers are not entitled for Master’s program and banks will think twice before giving you a loan.

Basically, those who are being extended under contract will be paid under U41 salary but will end up doing the same job as a U44 MO, with their life in civil service ending in 2 more years. Again……..

IS THIS A TRAGEDY OR A COMEDY……………..

 

 

 

Since my last article in June 2019, there has been a lot of happenings in our country, as well as in other parts of the world. Is it for better or worst, only time will tell. The tragedy that is affecting our young graduates is something I predicted almost 15 years ago. As usual, our suggestions and warning to MOH was just for filing purposes with no definitive action or plan. It was all about money and how much you can make out of our society’s ignorance and demand. Over the last few months, I have been watching and reading numerous articles in the newspaper in regards to housemanship waiting period and what is happening to those who have completed housemanship and floating around while waiting for MOH/SPA to make a decision whether, you are going to be absorbed permanently into civil service or just an extension of the contract. The frustration among the doctors is palpable but trust me, it will not just end there!

Early this month, there was a circular from MOH:

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I find this circular very interesting. As I wrote in my article dated 15/04/2019, the first batch which started their contract housemanship in December 2016, most completed their housemanship end of last year and eligible to apply for a permanent post. Unfortunately, they were waiting for months. While they were waiting, they were kept in the same hospital as a floating medical officer with the same salary as a housemen. As long as the contract is not renewed, they will not receive the U44 promotion. They will remain in U41 as per the earlier contract. The first contract was for 3 years, to cater for any extension of housemanship. That’s the reason the contract has to be renewed after you receive the full registration as only then you can receive a U44 salary. Fortunately, the bright side is the fact that you still have a job till the contract expires.

In June 2019, I was informed that almost 500 of them were absorbed into permanent civil service and only about 50 were given extended contract to complete their compulsory service. Those who were given permanent post were mostly transferred out to where the post is available. A lot of them ended up in Sabah and Sarawak. Either you take it or leave it! There were actually more than 1000 doctors who had applied, following completion of housemanship, end of 2018. What happened to the rest? From my understanding, till September 2019, there were no news about the rest. While waiting, the number of applicants has been increasing as subsequent batches of contract officers began to complete their housemanship. What a mess we are in!

Then, out of no where, the circular above was issued by MOH, dated 30/09/2019. The circular basically says that while waiting for the decision, you can now be transferred to another hospital, klinik kesihatan aka anywhere!. You will not be in the same hospital as a floating officer. It also says that you will be notified of the decision of your application 3 months before your 1st contract ends (which is 3 years from your date of starting housemanship). Basically it just confirms that you will remain a floating medical officer till about 9 months after completing your housemanship (assuming you complete in 2 years on the dot) but in a different location!

The most interesting part of the letter is the fact that, if you manage to secure a permanent post, you will likely be transferred yet again to another location depending on availability of the vacant post that you are being given! Basically means, you will be transferred again within a year to another location! Is this a tragedy or a comedy? The best is yet to come: those who receive extension of contract can remain at the same place where they were transferred as a floating officer! In another word (the way I interpret this), your life in civil service ends there within another year aka completing 4 years of compulsory service. It’s just a diplomatic way of putting it !

All these just points to a simple fact: medicine is not a guaranteed job anymore. The market will be flooded with doctors and no one is going to be bothered whether you have a job or not. How many of them, who did not get a permanent post (can be about 2-3000/year) going to end up opening a clinic? As per my last article in June 2019, the GPs are already struggling to survive!

This is not something that is happening in Malaysia alone. In August 2019, Singapore Medical Council  announced that the number of recognised medical schools will be reduced from 160 to 103, effective January 2020. Many universities in Australia, India, Ireland and Canada were de-recognised. Singapore believes that they are now producing enough graduates of their own to fill the vacancies. Only UM and UKM degrees are recognised in Singapore and I heard that many who applied for a job in Singapore are not receiving favourable response compared to 10 years ago.

Similarly, as I have written in April 2019, Australia is also reducing their dependency on foreign doctors. In April 2019, I wrote that effective March 2019, Australia has introduced a new rule for employers who are recruiting foreign doctors to be a GP in Australia. They must first apply and receive a certification from Rural Work force agency confirming a genuine need to fill the position. In July 2019, Department of Health has reclassified areas which can recruit an International Medical Graduate (IMG). What use to be known as DWS (District of workforce shortage) area is now being replaced by DPA (Distribution Priority Area). These are the areas where an employer can recruit an IMG as you will not be given a medicare provider number(for medicare billing) if you are not working in these areas. Interestingly, many of the areas which use to be DWS areas till June 2019 are now non-DPA areas. DPA now only covers rural and remote areas. For example, in Western Australia, the entire Perth up to Mandurah and even small suburbs like Bunbury and Geraldton are considered non-DPA areas. And you have to work in DPA area for at-least 10 years (the 10 year moratorium) even if you become a PR. The whole idea is to cut down the number of foreign doctors. Furthermore, you can only work in Australia after passing both your AMC Part 1 &2 exams (except Monash Malaysia), where the passing rate is as low as below 20%. As for FRACGP, as mentioned in my April article, those who enter the program in Malaysia from January 2019 will not be receiving FRACGP and will not be able to work in Australia directly. Everyone works under contract in Australia and there are many specialist in Australia who can’t find a full time job. Many work on part-time or sessional basis. There is no such thing as automatic job for a specialist in Australia, upon completing their fellowship. So, don’t assume that doctors are guaranteed a job anywhere in this world!

This interesting letter from a doctor is worth reading, ” Medical Profession is no longer lucrative”.  It is well written, not to mention the increasing litigation and patient demands. Do medicine only if you are determined to overcome all the obstacles. Reading my blog/books will inform you the real life of a doctor and not what the public wants you to believe. It is never as simple and cosy as what the public tells you. Till today, when I look at the comments in social media, the public still believe that doctors can work anywhere in the world. They got NO idea that a doctor cannot work in another country unless his/her degree is recognised in that particular country. They got NO idea that you need to sit and pass an entrance exam which can cost thousands of ringgit without a guarantee of a job! They got NO idea that there are jobless doctors in many countries, Malaysia is on the way to join those countries………

Happy Delayed Deepavali 2019 greetings.

 

IS THIS A TRAGEDY OR A COMEDY…………………..

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11th of June 2019 was supposedly a uniting day for all our GP friends in Malaysia. It was the day when our new Minister had a town hall meeting with almost 1000 GPs from all over Malaysia. It all started when the Minister made a statement about a month ago that the Cabinet has approved drug price control and currently under review for implementation. This triggered an uproar among the GPs whose consultation fee is already regulated and capped under Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998. Schedule 7 which controls consultation fee for GPs has capped the maximum price at Rm 35! This has been as such since 1998 but the act came into force in 2006. The hospital doctors on the other hand had a review in 2013 and Schedule 13th was amended with roughly 15% increment, starting 2014.

What are my views and take on these issues? Well, my comments, even in the past, had created a lot of negative feedbacks from fellow doctors. But as I had always said, I call a spade , a spade! Just look at the public feedback in Facebook etc when the above town hall meeting was reported. Videos of our GP colleagues venting their frustration was shown live and recorded by various media. Did you really expect the public to show sympathy? The answer is a BIG NO! For the public, doctors are sitting in a cozy air-conditioned room and earning tonnes of money! Only when their own kid ventures into becoming a doctor, hoping to live a glamorous life, they realise the actual life as a doctor! The hours of work, training, exams, risk taken, litigation etc before you can even think of earning a decent living.

Having said that, generally a doctor can still earn a living as long as they can get an internship post and complete their training. However, the era of earning tonnes of money and being “rich” is gone and going…….Our income will be similar to any other profession, allowing us to live a life. If you are still thinking that spending RM 500 000 to RM 1 million to be a doctor is going to give you a luxury life, think again! Jobless scenario is already happening in many countries.

Now, coming back to GPs. The day you open a private clinic, it is a business, period!Same goes to private specialist. In any business, there are gains and there are loss. Some businesses closes down and some businesses thrive and even become global players. Business is a business, nothing differentiates you than anyone else. Unfortunately , health is an essential service. Health and Education are 2 components in any country which should be the government’s responsibility. I have said and maintained this statement since I started this blog. Many may not know that the PHFSA 1998 was actually tabled and passed in the Parliament in anticipation of corporatisation of health care in this country. The corporatisation of healthcare aka National Health Financing Scheme was suppose to be implemented in 1999 as the last corporatisation exercise of Dr M! Everything was ready on paper.Unfortunately, the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and subsequent reformasi etc totally shut down the plan till today.

Frankly I don’t agree with controlling of consultation fee. Let the market force decide. BUT healthcare is an essential service and thus the government need to be responsible. Thus, in Malaysia, they control it via the Malaysia Boleh way! Same goes in any other country as well. You may think that in other countries, the government do not control the consultation fee. On paper , yes but they do control it in another voluntary way. Their National Health Financing Scheme(NHFS) that pays for all the consultation/procedure fee do have a limit and standardised payment system. Anything more than that, the patient has to pay out of their own pocket. Public being public, obviously they will choose a doctor that only bills what the NHFS pays. NO one will ever want to pay out of their own pocket! In some countries, the doctors can only accept what the NHFS pays which is basically a fee control mechanism where everyone technically is a civil servant. Even in Australia, many patients prefer to visit the “bulk-billing” doctors (accepting Medicare fee) rather than cash billing doctors.

The GPs were arguing that they are only allowed to charge a maximum of RM35 for the last 21 years. Now, just look at the comments from the public in FB etc. You, me and all members of the public knows that a simple consultation and medication by a GP will cost RM 50-70 and in some cities, can even reach RM 100! Patients are smarter nowadays. Even my patients will go to a pharmacy and ask for the cost of the medications. Similarly, many cash paying patients would do that and will know the actual cost of the meds given by the GP. So, do you think they believe that you are charging only maximum of RM 35? You may argue all you want about the cost of running the clinic etc, but a business is a business! NO one cares whether you are running at a lost or not. No one believes the notion that you are providing a service to public. Didn’t you become a doctor to help man-kind and provide service (aka free service)?

I found that one of the main issue that was discussed the other day was about TPA (Third Party Administrators). Many were arguing that TPAs are only paying RM 10-15 per consultation and wants the government to make sure that they pay RM35 per consultation. Now, let’s go back to my statement above. It is a business! TPA goes around to negotiate the best deal in town. So, the person who is WILLING to take the offer will sign an agreement with the TPA. A business deal! So why are we complaining? You signed it and agreed to it but complain later? We all know that many GPs are dependent on TPAs. Almost 60-70% of a GP’s income comes from TPAs. Without TPA, many more GPs will close shop. This is similar to private hospitals. 95% of hospital admissions are medical card holders. If insurance companies go bankrupt, all private specialist will be out of jobs! That is the fact. So, TPAs can “tarik-harga” . Unless the GPs can unite and state their demands, no TPA is going to entertain your request. By 2021, the market is going to be flooded by GPs when 50-60% of doctors(roughly about 2000-3000 per year) completing their compulsory service not going to be absorbed into civil service. You think the TPA is going to symphatise you? They will be having a jolly good time of GP shopping! And don’t forget the “uberisation” of healthcare where even those who are waiting for housemanship seem to be giving “online” or phone advise!

Even if the government removes the fee schedule, how much do you think you can charge a patient? How much a patient is willing to pay out of his/her pocket? Under-cutting and bad-mouthing is going to be rampant and again TPAs will have the same modus operandi. They will continue to negotiate a deal for the cheapest possible GP. That is business and everyone wants to make the maximum profit.So, if you agreed and signed for it, you have no basis to complain. The government is not going to interfere with that.

I really felt that most of the arguments that were forwarded during the town hall meeting were emotional in nature. I was watching it live on FB and was putting myself as a member of the public. What I saw was just doctors arguing to make more money! And that was exactly how the public felt as seen in many comments on FB etc. Bringing politics into the picture made it even worst! Whatever political ideology we have, we should keep it among ourselves and should not display it publicly, as we are dealing with members of the public who may have different political ideology. Even more shocking and surprising for me was when one of the speakers rejected Universal Health Care! Lucky the MMA president came with a statement 2 days ago that MMA and all medical associations had signed Declaration Titiwangsa in support of Universal Health Care.

When 1Care was mooted in 2012, the GPs went against it as well, mainly because of dispensing separation. It was scheduled to be implemented in 2014 but the 2013 election results made it to be shelved indefinitely. We have to admit that it is the dispensing rights that the GPs have which is giving them the survival. With limited consultation fee, they make profit from dispensing medications. IF this is removed, more GPs will close shop and become unemployed. This was the reason why GPs were shocked and reacted when the Minister announced last month that drug price control mechanism will be implemented. To me, I support the drug price control mechanism. We have to look at the public and see what benefits them. Working in a private hospital, I very well know how the hospital mark-up the medication prices. Some are up to 100% mark-up, especially for inpatients. That’s the reason I don’t like to give generic medications to patients as the organisation that makes the most profit will be the hospital. The cheaper the drug, the higher the mark-up. I rather ask the patient to buy from a pharmacy via a prescription slip from me. As for a GP, having a price written at the box may reduce their overall charge.

Now, let’s come to the solution! WE have to change and move forward. We can’t be harping on the same model that we have been doing since the 1960s! The world is changing and many countries have moved on to new models. Whether these new models are better or worst is something to be decided later. We have to move to a win-win situation, for the GPs, doctors in general, government and the public. Our healthcare system is not sustainable. I have said this many times before. Two parallel system running concurrently, competing against each other for an essential service is doomed to fail. We have a public system totally funded by tax payers and a private system almost 80% funded by insurance (aka out of pocket). The insurance companies are also bleeding in billions and the only reason they are still providing medical cards is because it is mandatory under Bank Negara rules. If not, which company wants to continue a loss making business?

The way forward for a GP to have a lifeline is to have a National Health Financing Scheme which will integrate  public and private healthcare system. This is the only way you are going to survive and have a decent living. You may not make tonnes of money but at least you can earn a living. With the NHFS, GPs will be paid by the scheme with an agreed fee. GPs can charge extra with removal of fee capping but how many patients will be willing to pay out of pocket is something we need wait and see. Eventually, most GPs will do bulk billing! It will come with a price. Dispensing separation will become inevitable with NHFS, where subsidised or fully funded medications by the NHFS will have to go through a dedicated pharmacy. But the overall cost of running a clinic will drop as you do not need to employ staffs to dispense or to run an in-house pharmacy. GPs have to form group practices like in many other countries. The NHFS may have to pay higher fees for a specialist GP which will make more GPs to upgrade themselves. Sometimes I feel very sad when I attend CME talks to see the same GP’s faces all the time! And guess what, most of them are senior GPs! The younger ones are hardly seen as they are busy trying to run their clinic.

With the NHFS paying the consultation, procedure fee and medications, there are bound to be audits. Again, this is nothing new as most countries with NHFS do such audits. You will have feedback audits, prescription practise audits and even average consultation fee audits. The number of patients you can see a day may be limited in the context of quality care. Prescription of certain drugs like opiates, steroids , antibiotics etc will be monitored. At the moment, these are never audited and the GPs can do whatever they want. Do we even have the data of total usage of antibiotics by GPs in Malaysia? We do have data from KKM and private hospitals but not from GPs as there are no laws to mandate GPs to be audited for such usage. IN any system there should be check and balance and doctors are not or should not be exempted. Unethical practices will rise if these issues are not kept in check, as what is happening increasingly in private hospitals.

There is no point arguing with the government when it comes to essential services. A government’s duty is to provide such service to public. Just see what happened when education was privatised! We made someone rich by making the public to go into debts!While the NHFS will have to get the money from the public in the form of premiums plus funding from the government, at least it will distribute the health service to a united system. Patients can go anywhere without paying anything and the GPs will be able to get the load with lower overhead cost, enough to have a job to survive.

Either we change to live a reasonable decent life or we die a slow death……. it’s our choice.