Monday, March 7, 2016

After medicine, ministry mulls freeze on pharmacy courses

A glut of graduates with degrees in pharmacy in recent years have prompted the Health Ministry to propose a freeze on the number of accredited pharmaceutical courses offered by institutions of higher learning. Director-general of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also suggested a quota be imposed on pharmacy students to avoid oversupply in the near future. The move follows reports that the ministry might also extend the freeze on new medical courses and institutions of higher education offering such courses by another five years, in a bid to stem the glut of trainee doctors. Dr Noor Hisham said the number of pharmacy graduates rose to 1,486 last year from 1,223 in 2014 despite a limited number of training placements in public hospitals. There are a total of 75 training facilities in the public sector. "The Malaysian Pharmacy Board has, until now, recognised 20 local universities, including five public universities, offering 26 pharmaceutical programmes. "If the intake of pharmacy student is not controlled, there may be an oversupply of pharmacists in the near future," Dr Noor Hisham, who is also president of the pharmacy board, told The Malaysian Insider. Up until February, 13,520 pharmacists were registered with MPB, resulting in a pharmacist-to-population ratio of 1:2,307. This ratio is expected to drop to 1:2,000 by year-end as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some graduates have previously expressed their frustration over the long wait for training placements and the limited job prospects in the field. Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Datuk Nancy Ho, however, said the society has warned of the glut of graduates four years ago when it proposed a cap on the number of institutions offering pharmaceutical courses. The rising numbers of dentistry graduates, meanwhile, has resulted in a dentist-to-population ratio of 1:4,800, which is well above the target of 1:3,000. By the end of 2015, there were 6,410 dentists practising in the country. New dentistry graduates climbed from 697 in 2013 to 896 in 2014 and 980 in 2015. Dr Noor Hisham said this, however, did not reflect an oversupply of dental graduates as there was a need for more dentists to address the high disease burden noted in the National Oral Health Survey for Adults 2010 and the National Oral Health Survey of Preschool Children 2015.  "Taking into account population growth, the expected number of new graduates and the number that retire from practice each year, the desired target would only be reached in 2018.  "The increase in the number of dental graduates registering with the Malaysian Dental Council in recent years has been due to graduates from foreign institutions.  "The number of graduates from local universities has remained relatively constant between 450 and 500 per year." He acknowledged that the higher number of graduates warranted the creation of new posts yearly by the Public Service Department (PSD), especially as there was less than 10% attrition rate for dental officers in the public service.  He said that a five-year moratorium on the opening of new dental schools imposed in 2013 was expected to be reviewed in 2018 based on the situation and needs of the population.  Although dentistry students are not required to undergo training, they are required to serve a year's compulsory service in the public sector. Currently, there are 13 local institutions conducting dental degree programmes and total annual student intake at all local institutions has been capped at 800. – March 8, 2016.]]>

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