PETALING JAYA - The exodus of medical lecturers from public universities is biting deep, with Universiti Sains Malaysia losing 38 lecturers in the last six months. Universiti Malaya lost 21 clinical lecturers last year.
Most of them are attracted by the better salaries and less workload in private medical schools and hospitals.
With the situation worsening, the Education Ministry has set up a high-level committee to look into improving conditions for medical lecturers in the public service.
Higher Education Department director-general Prof Datuk Dr Morshidi Sirat said the ministry's secretary-general II Prof Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang would head the panel.
"Universities with medical faculties will also be represented in the committee," he said yesterday.
Dr Morshidi added that the committee was set up about two weeks ago following instructions from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister.
Dr Morshidi said there were nine public universities with medical faculties and 20 private institutions of higher learning with medical programmes.
"The ratio of lecturer to student is 1:4 (clinical) and 1:6 (non-clinical). They must adhere to these ratios by the Malaysian Medical Council if they are to be given accreditation," he added.
Sunday Star front-paged a report that medical lecturers were leaving public universities in droves after complaining of years of being overworked and underpaid.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan claimed that some clinical lecturers were stuck for more than 20 years without a promotion despite being specialists and qualified surgeons with years of experience.
USM public relations head Mohamad Abdullah said the university had also set up a special committee, chaired by former Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican, to study "all issues" related to USM's medical programmes.
The committee also includes the university's medical personnel and Board of Governors chairman Tan Sri Datuk Dr Zulkefli A. Hassan.
"We are taking in foreign lecturers as a temporary measure and we have new lecturers returning from their training and sub-specialisation (courses)," he said, adding that USM had also forwarded its request to the Education Ministry to improve the service scheme and to increase collaboration among medical schools.
To reduce the rampant staff pinching, the USM Board of Governors recently approved more promotions for its clinical lecturers.