MANY housemen find it difficult to cope with the pressure when they cannot adapt to the rigorous training regimen in hospitals.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said this had led to many housemen not completing their training, especially those who studied abroad, as the systems were different.
“In some countries, interns are not even allowed to touch patients, and they do not even know how to get a patient’s history.
“There is also the language barrier. If they studied in Indonesia, the common language is Bahasa Indonesia, but in Malaysia, we use English,” he said, adding that this had increased the pressure on housemen.
Dr Hilmi said there were about 10,000 housemen from various backgrounds in Malaysia, including graduates from local, overseas and unrecognised universities.
He said of the number, at least 20 per cent had difficulties with training and were asked to extend their internships up to six to eight months.
“Last year, 1.2 per cent of housemen were either terminated or had quit because they could not take the heat.
“Many went to other countries to complete their internship, while those who did not show up for many months were sacked.”
On why it took so long to identify absent housemen, Dr Hilmi said there were so many housemen that sometimes their superiors did not notice that they had gone missing.
“That is why some have gone missing for up to 400 days,” he said after launching World Leprosy Day at the Gombak Orang Asli Hospital in Selangor yesterday.
He was responding to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, who had said trainee doctors made up the highest number of civil servants who were given termination notices.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said about 20 to 30 per cent of about 5,000 housemen who joined the service every year opted to extend their housemanship.
He said there were cases of housemen leaving the profession or were removed after they disappeared after finding out that they could not meet the expected requirements of working as a doctor.
“I’ve seen some who resigned within 24 hours.
“Many don’t resign, but they are not in the system because they don’t go to work.
“Later, when we identify them, but can’t trace them, we have to take disciplinary action,” said Dr Subramaniam at a seminar on workplace health here yesterday.
He said stress was the main reason housemen dropped out, were absent or extended their housemanship.
“People who take up medicine and don’t know what it is all about (often find that) they can’t fit in the system.”
However, he said, the number of such incident s had dropped as the ministry had taken steps to intervene by counselling the housemen.
He said the respective sections had been instructed to counsel and train housemen before they began their programme and to offer them transfers to other facilities to help them adjust.
Dr Subramaniam said universities should consider using an aptitude test.
He said to address the problem, the ministry’s main job was to ensure that working conditions were conducive.
He said universities might need to regulate interviews to ensure the screening system was compatible with the ministry’s requirements.
He said imposing such requirements on private institutions was a tall order as a strict vetting process would reduce the number of students who passed,thus leading them to collect less fees.
He said housemen who dropped out and wanted to rejoin the service would not be given a second chance.
“Once they drop out, it is the end of their medical career.
“The Malaysian Medical Council will not recognise them as practising doctors.
“The ones with major disciplinary issues will not have a certification of good standard and they will find it difficult to find jobs in other countries.”
Ali Hamsa had said some housemen were laid off because they went missing for up to 400 days.
He said some of them had studied abroad on government scholarships. It was reported that sponsoring a medical student overseas could cost as much as RM1 million or more, while the cost in local universities was far lower, but still hefty.
Ali Hamsa attributed the policy of permitting hospital interns to follow their spouses overseas for study purposes as another possible reason many went missing from work, and called for a policy review.