A new approach has to be considered to retain medical specialists in government hospitals due to an alarming number of them leaving the service.
It is unavoidable that the specialists would opt for the private sector due to higher salaries and better working conditions.
To overcome this, the 2018 Budget could give specialists in government service a lower personal income tax rate or they could be exempted from paying tax to ensure that there is not much difference between the salaries in the public and private sectors.
The government cannot afford to pay high salaries as it has to take into account the last salary scale before retirement and the pension scheme.
A variable tax system can be used to offset unfair advantages in a free market economy.
Another approach is to increase the number of specialists in all medical fields by providing more specialist training centres and twinning programmes
with specialist training universities.
More capable and willing doctors need to be recruited for specialist courses, possibly a few hundred annually, to reduce the specialist shortage. It can be a surplus from shortage within less than 10 years.
Those specialists who have been funded by the government through scholarships, sponsorships or other means need to sign a bond with the government to stay in government service for 10 years after graduating.
This formula will ensure that with a few hundred specialists graduating every year and a smaller number leaving government service, there will be a sufficient number of specialists in government hospitals.
One also needs to note that the private sector could reach saturation point for specialists.
The government needs to consider that only by enabling a large number of doctors to opt for specialist courses can the shortage be overcome quickly.
It was only by producing a large number of doctors through local and foreign medical programmes in the last 10 to 15 years that the nation had overcome the shortage of doctors since independence to the extent that there is now a surfeit of doctors.
A similar effort needs to be undertaken by the government to increase the number of specialists, and the increase in the number of housemen and doctors in government service will ensure that many of them would become specialists if the opportunities were there.
Another issue that needs to be addressed in the 2018 Budget is to ensure that government hospitals have the latest technology and machines, especially for the treatment of critical ailments such as cancer.
It is worrying that government hospitals some time ago had the latest machines, better than those in the private hospitals, but are now lagging behind and need money-raising campaigns to overcome the deficit.
The Health Ministry’s budget needs to be increased for these efforts.
More districts hospitals need to be upgraded and have specialists and better equipment.
Also, the government needs to look into the viability of an incentive or disincentive system to reduce the number of in-patients and out-patients at government hospitals.
This will enable more people to be health-conscious and have good lifestyles.
The almost free-of-charge system has increased the number of people going to hospitals and government clinics, and getting free treatment and medication.
This is a big drain on healthcare programmes funded by the government.
The number of people suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and kidney ailments is too high for Malaysia’s small population.
Sungai Buloh, Selangor