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(File pix) Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said currently there were only 5,098 specialist government doctors and the majority of them were in the cities. NSTP/ Khairunisah Lokman

ALOR STAR: The Health Ministry will take a more systematic step to deal with the problem of lack of doctors in rural areas.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said currently there were only 5,098 specialist government doctors and the majority of them were in the cities.

“The problem cannot be solved immediately. We need a proper plan which is more systematic to increase the number, their specialities and send them to work in rural areas.

“At the same time, we want to bring down the number of foreign doctors working with the health ministry even though the numbers are not that high. There are currently just 10 of them,” he told reporters after attending a dinner organised by the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Kedah/Perlis at a hotel here last night.

Lee said among the steps being taken by the government to overcome the problem was to allow 1,000 doctors to continue their education at a degree level in the appropriate fields at local universities annually.

However, the ministry also encouraged private doctors to volunteer in rural areas.

He said this after being informed that the federation has been actively volunteering in rural areas such as Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang.

Lee also warned 24-hour restaurants that employ foreign workers to ensure cleanliness to avoid food poisoning.

His ministry would increase monitoring at restaurants to ensure they adhere to rules regarding food handling and ensure their restaurants were clean.

“These restaurants are at risk. Workers and cooks must be free from disease, and if they fail to follow the rules, action can be taken against them.

“We must learn from the recent incident in Baling where two persons have died and 83 have fallen ill after eating laksa at a restaurant there,” he said.

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