by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, June 8 1991:
Proposal by Mahathir to allow foreign doctors to practise in private is most startling
The proposal by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.Mahathir Mohamed, to allow foreign doctors to work in private hospitals an even set up clinics is most startling.
The reasons given by Dr.Mahathir for this proposal are:
Firstly, to overcome the doctor shortage in the government Dr.Mahathir said that if the number of doctors, including those in the private sector was increased sufficiently, it would be less attractive for doctors in the government service to leave.
Secondly, to help reduce the exorbitant fees charged by such clinics had led to the poor throngings government hospitals to seek threatment.
What Dr.Mahathir is suggesting is to ‘dump’ foreign doctors in Malaysia to reduce medical fees and make it unattractive Malaysian doctors to leave the government service.
How many foreign doctors does Dr.Mahathir have in mind ‘dump’ in the local doctor market in order to produce these effect Bringing in 50 and 100 foreign doctors would not make much of an reason. To produce the effects Dr.Mahathir talks about, one have to think in terms of ‘dumping’ thousands of foreign doctors of the local doctor market!
Is Dr.Mahathir thinking of turning Malaysia into international ‘dumping ground’ for all foreign professional?
Ordinary Malaysians find fees charged by all professionals high and very steep. Having set a precedent, is Dr.Mahathir to suggest that Malaysia also allow foreign architects, lawyer, dentists, surveyors and other professionals to practise in Malaysia for down professional fees in these fields?
Is Dr.Mahathir thinking of turning Malaysia into a multi national ‘dumping ground’ for all foreign professionals?
One of the reasons why the price of houses in Malaysia is so high is because of the high price of local building materials, like steel, which are kept at an artifically high price as compared with the world market through restrictions on import of foreign steel.
On the same logic as propounded by Dr.Mahathir yesterday, is the Government going to tear down all tariff walls on foreign products and even allow Malaysia to be the dumping ground for all sorts of products to ensure that Malaysians can enjoy the cheapest goods available?
The DAP fully agrees that the two problem of doctor shortage in government service and the high exorbitant fees in private clinics must be resolved, but is most shocked by Dr.Mahathir’s most startling remedy.
These two problems are in fact inter-related. The private clinics will not be able to charge high and exorbitant fees if the government hospitals are well run and enjoy the confidence of the public.
It is precisely because the government hospitals had failed to retain public confidence that private clinics could charge such high and exorbitant fees.
Dr.Mahathir’s statement that the high fees charged on private clinics had led to the poor thronging government hospitals to seek treatment is to turn the problem of government responsibility on its head.
When private clinics and hospitals were first permitted the government said this would not affect its main responsibility for the people’s medical welfare.
Now, it would appear that Dr.Mahathir is blaming the private clinics and hospitals for not taking over all the government’s medical and hospital responsibility.
DAP proposes the de-linking of the salary structure for government doctors from the civil service salary structure to enable doctors to have increases of salaries without affecting the 800,000 strong civil service
The Government must be more innovative and imaginative to overcome the problem of doctor shortage in government service. While it is not possible for the government to compete with the private sector, there are still many areas in the government service to increase the take-home ply and improve the working conditions to keep doctors from leaving the government service in such large numbers.
One reason which the government had always used to explain why it could not increase the salaries of the doctors is because this will affect the whole salary structure of the civil service which is 800,000-strong.
At a time when the Prime Minister is thinking of such startling proposals as opening Malaysia wide to be a ’dumping ground for foreign doctors, this explanation is no more acceptable.
To make it more attractive for doctors to remain in the government service, the salary structure of the doctors and specialists should be completely de-linked from the civil service salary structure so that increases in the salaries of doctors and specialists will not affect the 800,000-stong civil service.
The working conditions of the doctors and specialists can be vastly improved to make it more attractive for them to remain in the government service.
Once the government hospitals begin to regain public confidence, then the conditions would have been laid to deal with the problem of high and exorbitant fees in private clinics and hospitals.