PETALING JAYA: About 20% of Malaysian students who entered foreign universities to do medicine since 2009 did not even have the minimum academic qualifications required to enter the programmes. Students having less than three Principal Cs in STPM or A-level have, however, secured places in the programmes because they obtained the "no objection" letter from the Education Ministry. Disclosing this to theSun, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr H. Krishna Kumar ( pix) said even local universities differed in the benchmark set for intake of local students. He said the government, the Health Ministry and universities should offer places to only those who qualify and really have the interest to do medicine. "We are aware of students who take up medicine just because their parents want them to be doctors and push them into it. Such students may get through their programme but may not be happy practising later," he said. The minimum qualifications to do medicine and dentistry is three Principal Cs in the STPM examination or equivalent qualifications recognised by the Malaysian government, or at least a CPGA of 3.0 while SPM students must have at least 5As. We currently have more than 40 programmes locally and more than 300 universities overseas that are recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), resulting in over 7,000 graduating as doctors annually – 5,000 produced locally and another 2,000 overseas. Krishna said government hospitals can take a maximum of 5,000 new doctors per year, provided that all existing freshies finish their housemanship within two years. The reality, however, is that almost 20% of doctors serving housemanship take longer than two years, so fewer places are available for new graduates to enter the system. He said a Health Ministry study on housemen between 2009 and 2011 showed that 19% of them took longer because they failed to submit their paper work to be promoted to medical officers. Interestingly, it was also found that those who took up medicine without the basic entry requirements were up to five times more likely to have their housemanship extended. Other reasons for housemanship being extended include disinterest among doctors because their parents forced them to do medicine, and medical diseases that prevent them from performing their duties. "Most of these graduate doctors came from overseas universities that may not practise the same type or level of medicine locally, and they not only showed lack of basic knowledge but also poor level of competency at basic skills and a lack of discipline," said Krishan. He said although about 20% of the graduates from foreign universities have problems but disciplinary action was taken against fewer than 2% of them. Expressing concern that in the near future, there will be more doctors produced than places for employment, Krishna urged the ministry and MMC to take the bold step to overcome this problem. He said the authorities should perhaps have a new system of selection, requiring all medical graduates to sit for an entrance examination from which the top are selected based on the number of jobs available. He said if this comes about, the government should not allow any local universities to seek exemption from the entrance examination for their graduates, "Such exams could also be a way of protecting the profession by being flooded by foreigners wishing to work here. In Thailand, these exams are conducted in the Thai language to protect its nationals. Maybe, we should also run it in our national language to protect our own citizens from the invasion of foreign doctors when agreements like Afta, Afas and WTA take effect," he added. Stressing that the supply must meet but not exceed the needs, he urged the relevant authorities to assess the actual national needs and start planning for the future needs rather than just stating a figure that has already been reached in Kuala Lumpur, but will most probably never come near in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak.