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Exodus of govt docs
Published on: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah which long suffered a doctor shortage which was addressed somewhat in recent years may soon find itself back in square one again. The recent opening of several upmarket private hospitals in the State, most notably in the State Capital, had resulted in many doctors making a beeline to join lucrative offers from these hospitals.

Daily Express can reveal that just last year alone some 40 medical specialists from government hospitals, here, responded to two major recruitment exercises by private hospitals.

Among them are a Consultant Anaesthesiologist & Intensivist, a Consultant Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgeon, a Consultant Physician & Nephrologist, a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist, a Consultant Geriatrician, a Consultant Paediatrician, a Consultant Ophthalmologist and a Consultant Infectious Disease Specialist. Among the private hospitals now in business or about to start operations include Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu, Jesselton Medical Centre at Metro Town, KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital, KPJ Damai Specialist Centre and Rafflesia Medical Centre.

Monetary gains has been attributed as the "pulling factor" although the Government has raised the remuneration for medical officers and specialists in recent years.

While specialists in government hospitals stand to earn around RM6,000 a month (excluding allowances) their counterparts in the private sector could command salaries upwards of RM10,000. "Everyone needs more money, given the escalating cost of living in Sabah," said one doctor who joined the bandwagon.


One specialist, who had served in the Government for 15 years, said he would have loved to stay on if not for the tertiary education needs of his two grown-up children.

"I have to support them financially as scholarships are hard to come by," he said.

Another specialist who also quit in favour of private practice, said he has to move on, adding "I have to think of my future and in consideration of my family."

However, several others also bemoaned the "pushing factor" that drove them away from the public sector. One was what they said was a non-conducive working environment or lack of facilities, depending on the hospital they were serving.


The late Dr Baskaran, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon well-liked by the local community for his expertise and caring attitude, once expressed his frustration over hospital working conditions to the media.

A hospital director who spoke on condition of anonymity said, currently, there could be about 160 medical specialists left in government hospitals in the whole of Sabah.

"While we may be able to fill the vacuum over a period of time as more doctors graduate, things will not be the same anymore because the experienced ones have been 'pinched' by private hospitals," he lamented.

Reputable private hospitals won't simply recruit any "Tom, Dick and Harry" as word had it that some applications have been turned down for certain reasons.


"We are very selective in our intake of doctors, and will consider only those with a high level of commitment and dedication, among other hallmarks," said the CEO of a private hospital when contacted.

It won't be surprising if more decide to venture into the private sector, including hospital directors, who reportedly earn less than a medical officer as the latter is entitled to "on call" allowances, among other perks.

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