THE issue of having adequate housemanship placements for medical graduates could be addressed by encouraging them to take up postings in rural areas.
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd), in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre (UKMMC) and through the Tuanku Muhriz Travelling Fellowship, is looking at drafting up a programme to train doctors in rural healthcare.
RCSEd vice-president Dr Pala Rajesh said the shortage of surgeons in Malaysia, a growing elderly population and trends towards increased healthcare utilisation had contributed to a higher demand for the profession.
“The country needs more surgeons and RCSEd wants to encourage junior doctors and medical students at their clinical years to pursue a career in surgery,” he said.
He said if RCSEd and UKMMC could get a model in place, they could share the programme with Asean countries that more or less faced the same challenges in rural healthcare.
“Modern surgery is delivered in state-of-the-art infrastructure, with conditions that comply with a particular specialised surgeon’s needs.
“But in rural areas, the surgeon needs a wider skill set that may not necessarily be comprehensive, but more generic in nature. That may be an attractive option for those thinking of embarking on a career in surgery,” he said.
Dr Rajesh was speaking at the sidelines of the launch of RCSEd’s International Strategy at UKMMC in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, which was officiated by Negri Sembilan Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir, who is the royal chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and honorary fellow of RCSEd.
The launch showcased the parties’ commitment to deliver, promote and influence excellence and advancement in surgical practices and healthcare.
It also aimed to promote the surgery as a career of choice among medical practitioners.
The RCSEd’s International Strategy is aimed at supporting surgeons and dentists, and to advocate for the highest standards of surgery and dental care.
“RCSEd’s role is not just developing the profession, but also to develop individuals. Surgical training is among the longest career pathways in medicine. Surgery is physically demanding in terms of daily routines in managing patients and performing practical procedures at all times of the day.
“To be a surgeon is not just about technical ability, but one needs to be technically excellent and pose good academic knowledge,” said Dr Rajesh.
The event saw Professor Dr Angus Watson — a RCSEd council member — becoming the first recipient of the Tuanku Muhriz Travelling Fellowship.
He shared his experience in visiting indigenous communities in Sarawak to observe the rural healthcare services there for two weeks last month.
The fellowship, which is open to fellows and members of RCSEd, provides a 10-year funding for surgeons to share their expertise in providing support for rural surgical services.
During his stint, Dr Watson was able to meet fellow surgeons working in remote communities and experience first-hand the issues they faced.
He travelled to Kuching, Sibu, Kapit, Mujong and Ibau to observe, learn and build up an understanding on the culture of rural surgery.
He spent time observing hospital wards, clinics and visited local communities in long houses with health workers.
“When I arrived in Kapit, I went to a hospital that was built in the 1960s. I was impressed by the attitude and standard of the young people working there,” he said.
“They were outstanding young people, taking responsibilities to be there in Sarawak, probably more responsibilities than what they might get from most hospitals in the United Kingdom.
“It was also interesting to see assistant medical officers in action for the first time as these people can assist in emergency cases. They are not doctors, but they have been trained properly.”
The trip to the clinic in Mujong by boat took about two hours. While access was challenging, Dr Watson was impressed by the clinic’s cleanliness.
He said it was well-organised, “complete with a consultancy room that is better than most general hospitals in Sarawak”.
During the event, RCSEd held its first “Career Day” in Malaysia and introduced its international office in Kuala Lumpur, which would coordinate its activities and support international medical students.
Last year, UKM partnered with RCSEd to launch the international office, which is located at the Advanced Surgical Skills Centre (ASSC) in UKMMC.
The event was attended by Deputy Director-General of health Datuk Dr Rahaizat Yon and around 100 medical students and young doctors.