by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, April 8, 1993:
Cabinet decision to exempt foreign doctors working in the private sector from the three-year compulsory service with government hospitals a gross discrimination against Malaysian doctors and should be immediately reversed
The Cabinet decision to allow foreign doctors to work in the private sector and be exempted from the three-year compulsory service with government hospitals is a gross discrimination against Malaysian doctors and should be immediately reversed.
The Health Minister, Datuk Lee Kim Sai, yesterday advised local doctors especially private practationers, not to be ‘over-senstitive’ about the exemption from compulsory service for foreign doctors.
This is not a question of ‘over-sensitivity’. Only doctors who are utterly insensitive can be indifferent to the gross injustices in such a decision. In fact, one does not have to be a doctor to feel that such a decision is highly untrust and discriminatory, and should never have been made by the Cabinet.
I have no doubt that of a public opinion poll is conducted, not only the overwhelming majority of the doctors but the general population will regard such a decision as unfair, unjust and highly discriminatory.
Kim Sai said that Malaysia is recruiting foreign doctors because the country eed them to fill the doctor-shortage, and that government hospital are now short of 800 doctors and about 150 specialists.
As an emergency measure, there would be no objection if foreign doctors are recruited to serve in the government hospitals to overcome this acute doctor-shortage, but the question is why they should be allowed to work in private sector without having to undergo the three-year compulsory service obligatory for all Malaysian doctors.
Nobody could understand Kim Sai’s claim that it is logical to exempt foreign doctors from the three-year compulsory service, as such exemption is not only utterly illogical but completely indefensible on any ground.
If this is the Health Minister’s logic, then it is better for Malaysians who had qualified as doctors overseas to return to Malaysia as ‘foreign doctors’ so that they could get into the private sector immediately, without having to undergo the three-year compulsory service in the government hospitals.
Why is the Health Ministry being special kind to foreign doctors but insensitive and harsh with the plight of local doctors?
Kim Sai’s claim that this is a temporary measure as the local universities had also been taking in more medical students to produce more doctors is also unacceptable. I am sure doctors will remember that when the compulsory service for doctors – first two years, and then extended to three years – was first introduced in the 1970s, the government had promised that this was a temporary measure to meet the problem of doctor-shortage, and that this would soon be overcome by the local universities producing more doctors.
But this ‘temporary measure’ of compulsory service for doctors has become so permanent a feature that there was talk of increasing it to five years.
Similarly, once foreign doctors are allowed to work in the private sector without having undergo the three-year compulsory service, there will be nothing ‘temporary’ in such an arrangement.
If the Government insists on wanting to allow foreign doctors to work in the private sector without having to undergo the three-year compulsory service in government hospitals, then it should first completely scrap the three-year compulsory service for Malaysian doctors.