Malaysia to review health workforce needs amid oversupply concerns

The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Malaysia is set to conduct a study this year to review the country’s actual needs for different categories of human resources for health, according to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa. The study will consider the impact of new policies introduced after 2016 and the health needs of the population, enabling the distribution and requirement of health personnel nationwide to be clearly mapped and projected.

Dr Zaliha explained that the ministry will continue to discuss with the Public Service Department (JPA) to ensure that the health policies and plans prepared are in line with the needs of the people. The study will be evidence-based for the preparation of an implementation plan for the strategy in the Health White Paper, with the long-term plan focusing on ensuring that residents have access to better health services.

Regarding the JPA’s decision to stop sponsoring students pursuing studies in medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy, Dr Zaliha stated that this was based on the previous policy made in accordance with the findings of the Supply and Needs-Based Requirement Projections of Malaysian Human Resources for Health Using System Dynamics Approach 2016-2030 study conducted by MoH. The study indicated that there would be an oversupply of medical officers from 2026 to 2030.

However, Dr Zaliha noted that the study was based on data from 2008 to 2015 and did not reflect the current situation. She said that health workforce projections could be improved by considering changes in government policies after 2015, post-Covid-19 health needs, changes in the burden of disease, medical technological developments, and the need for services according to areas of expertise in the public and private sectors.

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Dr Zaliha emphasised that effective health workforce planning should take into account the dynamic health needs due to population growth, ageing society, increasing disease burden, and preparedness for health disasters. “If there is a shortage of health workers, it can affect the quality of health services and lead to excessive workload for existing health workers,” she said.

As such, the MoH is focusing on holistic and strategic human resource planning to ensure a sufficient supply of health workers. On June 11, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that the JPA will continue to offer scholarships for students pursuing medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy.

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Lee Shuyi

Lee is an expat writer living in Thailand. She specialises in Southeast Asian news for the Thaiger. When she's not writing, Lee enjoys immersing herself in Thai culture and learning Thai.