Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang

KUCHING: Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang has revealed that only ten percent of the 300 cardiologists throughout Malaysia are serving in hospitals under the Ministry of Health (MoH), while the rest are serving at private and university hospitals.

He said that 78 trainees were undergoing cardiology specialist training and would serve in MoH hospitals as well as contribute to the development of services.

“As for oncology services, there are 35 individuals, or 26 percent of 133 oncologists, throughout Malaysia serving at MoH hospitals  while the rest are serving at private and university hospitals.

“MoH intends to increase the number of oncologists in the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), that is, another 80 people,” he said during the Dewan Negara sitting in Putrajaya on Wednesday (Sept 23) in reply to a question from Senator Dr Ahmad Azam Hamzah.

In reply to an additional question from Senator Muhammad Zahid Md Arip on ways to encourage more medical specialists to work in the government sector rather than the private sector, Ago said that the government had a few initiatives including allowing flexible working hours for specialists.

“They can go to other private hospitals to serve and receive wages, especially on the weekend. However, this needs to be approved by MoH,” he said, adding that they also had automatic promotion for specialists.

“For example, if they are Grade 54 and they have served for five years, they will automatically be upgraded to Grade UD56. They are also given the opportunity to practise and attend short courses in sub-specialties,” he said.

Ago explained that one of the reasons that many specialists shifted from the government sector to the private sector once they became specialists was due to the higher salaries at private hospitals. 

Earlier, in his reply to Dr Ahmad, he said that urology, cardiology, and oncology services had been provided in almost all MoH hospitals ranked state hospitals throughout Malaysia.

He added that the need to provide comprehensive services for these three specialisations required substantial allocations, trained specialists, supportive clinical staff, infrastructure provision, and high-tech equipment.

“Oncology services provided are offered regionally. Currently, only five zones have this expertise through six cancer treatment centres in Malaysia – the National Cancer Institute (IKN), Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Pulau Pinang Hospital, Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Bharu, Women and Children Hospital in Likas and Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) in Kuching,” he said.

In addition, he said that chemotherapy treatment services for cancer patients were available at 37 MoH hospitals nationwide.

He said that ten MoH hospitals had resident specialists in the field of cardiology, with services covering all six main zones. He added that through the cluster initiative, four more hospitals also received access to this expertise while another 18 hospitals received periodic visits by cardiologists.

“In addition, early heart treatment services are provided at all MoH hospitals nationwide by general physicians and medical officers,” said Ago.

In order to improve services and accommodate the increase in heart patients, he said that three existing heart centres — Serdang Hospital, Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Setar, and Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Kota Kinabalu — will receive an addition of one Invasive Cardiology Laboratory (ICL).

“MoH also has plans to expand urology services to Perak, Melaka, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, and Sabah, especially in Sandakan or Tawau districts. Currently, there are 21 urology surgeons placed at 10 major hospitals,” he said.