The issue of long waits for medical housemanship placements is a long-standing one, with a lack of training hospitals said to be a main reason.
Deputy health director-general Dr Azman Abu Bakar has also attributed the long wait for housemanship placements to students’ unwillingness to venture out of their comfort zones and go to other areas, such as the interior.
He recently gave the example of the Klang Valley, where he said the long wait was often due to insufficient placements as many students were lining up for postings in the area.
“It works on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no favouritism. If you want to wait for your preferred choice, fair enough. If you want to stay in the Klang Valley and it is full, you have the option to defer your placement and do it later,” he said.
Two doctors who spoke to FMT agreed that placements were a problem because medical students did not want to leave their comfort zones and work in rural towns.
A medical doctor who spoke to FMT on condition of anonymity said: “There are many training hospitals in small towns. You can even do your housemanship in Batu Pahat (Johor).
“It’s just that medical students do not want to go since they can now choose their hospital and defer if they do not get their choice.”
The doctor, who is 27, had picked the Ipoh Hospital as her top choice for housemanship, but was posted to the Taiping Hospital. She waited four months for the posting.
She said many housemen did not want to go to the interior because they were pampered and comfortable where they were. Also, in rural areas they would have to contend with slow internet and a dearth of social activities after work.
However, she was of the view that it would be a better decision to go out to the rural areas as a houseman, as it would mean they would be able to come back.
“It is better to do the housemanship in rural areas rather than spending two years in the city, and then getting transferred indefinitely. But even then, coming back is not 100% guaranteed, so perhaps the health ministry needs to come up with clearer policies,” she said
For Sandakan native Jenny, getting out of her comfort zone meant applying for a housemanship position at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, which is a six-hour drive away.
Even then, the 26-year-old had to wait for 11 months before she was posted to the hospital two years ago.
“If I had wanted to be in my comfort zone, I would have chosen the Sandakan Hospital, which is just five minutes away from home.
“I chose the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for experience’s sake, even though it is very hectic as it is the main referral hospital. And yes, there is a lot to learn,”
Jenny said she agreed with the deputy director-general about the working attitude of some housemen.
“After having worked for the past one year as a senior, I feel that my juniors are too dependent. It’s like they presume we will always cover for them. That they need to be spoon-fed.
“I had to learn the hard way when I started,” she added.