Sarawak is facing an alarming shortage of doctors, with less than half of the vacant medical officer posts filled at the moment.
Out of the 1,334 vacancies, only 510 of them are taken, which represents a mere 38.2%. 90 of them are houseman officers. The statistic is worse for health and outpatient clinics as only 22% of the total 373 doctors’ posts are filled up.
The severe shortage, which affects a number of major hospitals and health center including the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching, as well as Sibu, Miri and Bintulu hospitals, poses a risk for deterioration in healthcare services in the state.
According to the statistics too, which was revealed by the Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud, out of 2.3 million people in the state of Sarawak, only 70% of them have access to hospitals and clinics. This is a pale comparison with the 95% rate in the peninsular. Taib is asking the Ministry of Health to resolve the serious shortage of medical officers as well as specialists in hospitals and clinics, which include provincial hospitals such as in Kapit, Sri Aman and Sarikei.
Naturally, the common reason for the predicament is due to the unwillingness of doctors in peninsular Malaysia to be relocated to the East Malaysia. Additionally, there are also issues of benefits and incentives. For example, unlike teachers, the government doctors working in rural areas in Sarawak is not entitled for hardship allowances. On top of that, Sarawak exercises a rather selective granting of PR (Permanent Resident) which makes the job attracting doctors from outside of Sarawak harder.