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Monday, July 3, 2017

The 'BM waiver for medical grads' issue explained

KINIGUIDE | The waiver extended to medical graduates who do not have SPM Bahasa Malaysia qualifications have prompted an outcry in some political circles. But the Health Ministry has defended the move, resisting political pressure.
What is this hullabaloo about? Malaysiakini explains.
What is this waiver?
The Public Service Department, on request of the Health Ministry, has waived SPM BM qualification requirements for medical graduates applying to undertake house officer training in teaching hospitals.
It is only for intake on a two-year contract for house officer training, followed by two years of compulsory public service.
However, graduates who join under this waiver cannot later enter public service as medical officers on a permanent basis unless they obtain SPM BM qualifications.
Why is there a waiver?
According to the Health Ministry, this is to assist medical graduates who did not sit for the SPM but obtained O Levels qualification instead.
This is because they went through secondary school abroad or attended an international school in Malaysia, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.
Was this always the case?
Up to last year, O Levels BM qualification was accepted in lieu of an SPM certificate.
Can't the medical graduates just sit for the BM SPM paper?
They could, but to do so, they must also sit for five other core SPM subjects - English, Mathematics, Science, History and Islamic/Moral Studies. They will only get an SPM certificate if they pass BM and History.
With all this trouble, why bother even trying to do training at public hospitals?
The Medical Act 1971 states that medical graduates must undergo two-year house officer training before qualifying as medical officers and do compulsory public service.
Following an announcement in October 2016, medicate graduates are now hired on a contract basis for two years house officer training, followed by two years compulsory public service.
Those who do not complete this cannot practice medicine in Malaysia.
How many medical graduates are affected?
It was reported that about 300 medical graduates are affected.
Is this the first time the Health Ministry is waiving BM requirements?
No, the same waiver was recently given to medical officers to meet staff shortage in public service but this has been rescinded as the need has been filled.
Foreign medical officers and specialists are also not required to have BM qualifications.
Who is upset by the waiver and why?
Most of the criticism has been from Umno Youth who argue that the waiver undermines BM's position as the national and official language.

The youth wing's leaders also say that it creates double-standards as all other civil servants are compelled to have SPM BM qualifications.
They argue that it could lead to misdiagnosis of patients and exacerbate the shortage of spots for house officers in teaching hospitals.
So what happens now?
Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of the Public Services Department Joseph Entulu have been instructed to explain the situation to the cabinet at its meeting today.

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