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An effective system to assess the training of specialists such as cardiologists

Media Statement
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw  


(Kuala Lumpur, Saturday) : I propose that the Health Ministry set up a truly effective assessment of the training and quality of specialists in the country. This must be followed by monitoring of the quality of specialist care in conjunction with respective professional bodies.

The effectiveness of the Medical Council must be reviewed. It is no longer able to fulfil the roles of complaint recipient, investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury.

I am concerned with the lack of specialists including cardiologists and complaints about the quality of specialist care in Malaysia. Most specialists try to provide the best care. But, there are black sheep.

On 6 February, 2007, the Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said that there were only 140 cardiac and cardiothoracic specialists, but the country needed 500 cardiovascular specialists. Out of the 140, 30 were chest specialists. We required at least 100 chest specialists. The minister did not touch on the criteria for evaluating the shortage.

Dr Chua attributes the shortage to the 12 years of training for cardiologists. He is right about the shortage, but he must look at not just the training of cardiologists but also other specialists.

This year, the ministry spends RM39,346,000 for cardiology and cardiothoracic specialty. The total allocation for medical treatment is RM4,547,817,000. Following this big expenditure, we have to improve our medical services including heart treatment. As mentioned by the minister, Malaysians spend RM300 million on cardiac medicines.

As Dr Chua also understands, all countries experience the shortage of specialists. In the U.K. and other developed countries, training of specialists or consultants has undergone drastic changes. We must look into these changes.

In U.K., there is a sea change in the training of specialists and the monitoring of the quality of specialist care. After spending 4 to 6 years as undergraduates, doctors can now become General Practioners within four years of graduation and General Physicians within 6 years of graduation. It will be longer for cardiologists and other specialists. House doctors are called foundation doctors. Housemanship is replaced by Foundation Programme, lasting for two years.

We need many more well qualified and ethical specialists including cardiologists. Now, we receive complaints about the quality of specialst care. We hope that the ministry has a truly effective system to assess the training and the quality of specialists. It should also monitor the quality of specialist care in the public and private sectors to ensure that the patients are not shortchanged.


*Dr Tan Seng Giaw ,  DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong

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