Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shortage of housemen

Need to lead by example

It is really shocking to know that having gone through the system some 30 years ago, is still not changed for the better. It was acceptable then for us to work long hours non-stop as there were at times only a single houseman available in each department. At that time we had just one university producing less than a hundred doctors a year.

Today more than a thousand doctors are churned out of our 19 local medical colleges every year and they are all absorbed into the government hospitals for houseman and subsequent medical officer and specialist training. Despite this mass production, it is puzzling why we are still short of housemen, and they are still forced to work 36 hours at a stretch.

Despite all these years of development, we are told that we are not only short of housemen, but also medical officers, specialists, nurses, and all categories of paramedical personnel. In fact you name the discipline and we will be told we are short in that area. What is happening to all the doctors being produced by our own universities? When will this shortage be ever overcome?. It may not be the actual number that is in short supply but rather the manner in which they are deployed and administered.

I sympathize with housemen for being blamed for all the complications and death that may arise in the management of his patients despite his long hours of dedicated hard work. It is important to understand that a houseman is the lowest in the hierarchy of the doctors in the medical team. Although they have very important roles to play, they are the least experienced, needing great deal of guidance and supervision in carrying out the various treatments. They are to be practically “attached” to the specialists who are responsible not only for their clinical training but also ethical as well.

Unfortunately these days some housemen go through their entire clinical posting of several months without ever seeing their heads of department, who are too busy with everything else but training the junior doctors. The training of junior doctors has become the least of their priorities, leaving the junior and less experienced ones to the task, which can be described as “the blind leading the blind.”

It would be unfair to blame the junior doctors for all the flaws in our health delivery system when they are not properly guided. Unless the senior specialists and consultants lead by example; we will never improve the quality of care to our patients.

Most of us, who had been with the system, would agree that the quality of medical care on the whole has deteriorated despite the government’s efforts to build the latest sophisticated hospitals. The reason for this is obvious – lack of dedication. Our present system is breeding dedication to the “almighty ringgit”, not to the profession and patients.

There is a need to re-look at the reasons for the deteriorating standards of health care. Unless we bring back the magic called “dedication” into our work ethics, no amount of money spent will restore the excellence in our health care that our leaders are proudly promoting.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mastering English

English is a necessity not an option

It is really distressing to read your report “Varsity students do badly in MUET”(Star, Jan 24).
It is disturbing to know that almost one-third of our public university students scored Bands One and Two in the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) which indicates their low proficiency in English.

The recommendation by the vice-chancellors' committee to make it compulsory for students to score at least a Band Three before they graduate from university is move in the right direction and should be adopted. In fact it should be made a criterion for admission to the university in the first place especially for science-based courses.

Turning down the recommendations of the vice-chancellors’ committee recommendation would be really doing the students a disfavor particularly those from rural areas. Instead the higher qualifying standard should be maintained and the students guided and encouraged to work harder to achieve that.

Lowering the standard and shunning them from the higher requirements would only instill a defeatist attitude in our younger generation, which would be detrimental to the nation in a global world.

While our universities should be commended for ornanising intensive English courses, it is regrettable that they are not taken seriously by the students themselves. This is due to misconceptions, especially in those from rural areas that are ingrained in them earlier from school days.

The positive attitude towards mastering English, or for that matter any language, should be inculcated from young. It should be stressed again and again that fears and prejudice against learning English are unfounded as it will in no way undermine our own national language.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Encourage an open education system

Be open to opposing ideas

I read with interest your report “Pak Lah: Think out of the box” (Star,January 17).

It is important for us to heed the advice of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who has called on the people especially students to think out of the box. His call to schools to produce students who are not only literate but who can also think creatively and critically is very timely and has to be taken seriously by all concerned.

There is a need to revamp the education system from one that is aimed at purely academic excellence to that of a wholesome education where equal emphasis is laid to sports, moral and extra-curricular activities. The present system may be inflicted with the so called “dumb syndrome”, where students from an early age are taught to shut up and not encouraged to speak their mind on any issue. In fact many “dumb” students are praised and rewarded for being compliant. Opposing views are not tolerated and in fact those with such ideas are considered rebellious and trouble-makers and are reprimanded.

Education Minister, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed have a formidable task ahead to convince our educationists at all levels to the need to change their mindset and adopt an open mind to the revamp of the education system to make it more open to opposing views and ideas,however controversial they may be.In this revamp there are will be no losers; in fact in the long term, everyone will stand to gain.

As the Prime Minister says many of our schools have good infrastructure but the content is not as good. Many of our students are very brilliant and may score maximum A's but not many can think out of the box. This is the reason why we are good in using the latest technology but lack behind in the areas of research to develop new technology. The advanced countries of the West have shown that an open system and one based purely on merit is the key to their success in the fields of science, technology and commerce.

There is a need for the government to instill a culture where opposing and even resenting views are encouraged, appreciated and even rewarded when necessary. There is no better place to start this than in our schools and continue into the universities and work places.

All of us regardless of race, religion and political alignment are committed to the development of the country which has become our home. In order to stand a better chance to succeed in the global challenge we have to adopt a more open and liberal attitude to opposing views from all citizens without fear, suspicion or prejudice.

Every citizen is a potential human capital and must be given a fair opportunity to contribute his talents to the development of the country. We must put aside our differences, which are mainly in form rather than substance, and look at the many common factors that bind us as Malaysians.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 12, 2007

Beef up quality medical care in peripheral hospitals

Ensure quality medical care for all

I refer to your report “One-stop cancer centre”(Star,Jan 10).

We are very glad with the government in trying to improve the treatment of cancer patients with the setting up of the one-stop cancer centre in Putrajaya. We are also happy that this National Cancer Institute will be equipped with the latest state of the art equipment like the Cyclotron and PET-CT scanners. This would make our National Cancer Institute of the premier
cancer treatment centres in the region.

What is disappointing is the lack of Oncologists. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek himself has admitted the training of oncologists had not been very successful so far as there are only 37 such specialists in the country. Like in all other specialities, we have to resort to foreign oncologists to provide treatment to our own people in our own sophisticated medical setup. This to me is indeed a failure on our medical and health services.

Another disturbing fact is the late diagnosis of our cancer cases. According to the Health Minister 80% of the 40,000 new cancer cases a year are diagnosed rather late and this does not augur well for the quality of medical and health care in the country.

Late and missed diagnosis is not limited to cancer cases alone. In fact in the peripheral hospitals even simple common conditions like acute appendicitis is missed, resulting in severe consequences, let alone more complex diagnostic problems.

The main problem of this is the non-availability of experienced doctors in the peripheral hospitals. Most of the senior specialists are confined to the major hospitals, leaving the smaller hospitals in the districts are to be manned by very junior doctors with not enough experience in the management of the various diseases.

In fact we have reached a state where all our hospitals should be ideally is equipped with the latest medical equipment and have the services of resident senior doctors and specialists. After 50 years of independence, we now have the most modern hospitals in the region but are plagued by the same old problem of shortage of specialists.

There is a dire need to beef up the level of care at the smaller hospitals in the country by decentralising the medical services., Instead of functioning as transit centres for patients to bigger hospitals, district hospitals they should in fact be equipped and staffed to treat all ailments and emergencies, leaving only those requiring sophisticated treatment to be referred to bigger centres.

Basic medical care is the legitimate right of every citizen and this should be made available easily for all regardless of their socio-economic status. It should not be confined to the major cities for the only advantaged few.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, January 11, 2007

E-plate technology a good idea but...

I read with interest your report “Car number plates to be controlled items” (Star, Jan 10).
It may a good idea to have the car number plates as a control item to be sold by authorized dealers appointed by the Road Transport Department (JPJ).

The incorporation of the microchip in number plates is definitely a high-tech method to reduce the theft of cars, which is increasing by the day and has reached an alarming rate. The JPJ must be commended for coming with such an innovative idea.

Having said that, one must not be carried away by the misconceived notion, that by introducing the e-plate technology all our problems will be over. Technology is only a means to help us overcome problems. They by themselves are not the solution. The most important is still the human factor – dedication, commitment and good work ethics.

Unless we increase the dedication and commitment to good work ethics of our enforcement workforce, all our efforts will not significantly reduce the number of stolen cars being smuggled out of the country.
Appointing authorized dealers will result in granting monopoly to selected individuals and itself could create unhealthy practices resulting in increase in the cost of these number plates. The selection of dealers for the distribution of the e-plates must be transparent and strictly based on merit and not on favoritism.

Furthermore there is the real danger that many traders and workers dealing with the manufacture and sale of these number plates may also be pushed out of business by the emergence of the new authorized dealers. The government must protect the interests of these existing traders and ensure they are fully utilized in the new system of manufacture and distribution of the e-plates.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 05, 2007

EPF must be careful with funds

Financial prudence needed

It was shocking to read the report “EPF nearly conned of RM15m over defunct company”(Star Jan 4).

It was indeed a relief that the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) managed to halt the deal in time that could have otherwise resulted in paying a hefty sum of the taxpayers’ money to a defunct company. How could the EPF be so careless and complacent? How is that it was not aware the company that it dealt with was defunct? Did the EPF follow the proper procedures and guidelines in handling the deal? These are questions that need to be answered. These need to be investigated and remedial measures put into place to prevent such blunders in the future.

The EPF must take great care of their funds as they are the result of hard work, the sweat and toil, of many poor workers. If the funds are allowed to be siphoned off by unscrupulous means by the lackadaisical attitude of the managers, it would leave the members stranded in very pitiful state on retirement, a time when they really need that money.

As the custodian of retirement funds of millions of its members, many of whom are meager wage earners, the EPF must ensure stringent procedures and guidelines are in place so that all investment transactions are carried out in the most effective and transparent manner.

A high level of financial prudence is required of the EPF.The Board must be responsible to its members and exercise great care before investing their contributions on various projects. Investments on projects that are low-risk should be preferred even though they may not reap huge profits. Using EPF funds for speculation and high risk investments can be likened to gambling away with the hard earned life long savings of its members, many of whom are from the lower category working class.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

NS must be taken seriously

Be serious or abandon NS

I read with interest your front page report “NS dept under fire”(theSun, Jan 3).

It is really disturbing that after three years into the NS project and after so much controversies,criticism and debate, the NS Department is still not capable of organizing even the basic amenity of transport for the trainees.This inefficiency on the part of the National Service Training Department has created a lot of uneasiness and doubt in the minds of parents, especially those who were skeptical of the program.

The outbursts by the NS Training Council Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye was indeed justified and should act as an eye opener that all is not well with the program as reassured otherwise.We agree with him that there is an urgent need for a shake-up of the whole department.How are we to entrust our children to these officers when they are unable to organize even some basic arrangements for them? It is ridiculous that even such simple jobs need to be personally attended to and supervised by the deputy prime minister.

We welcome Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement that the Government viewed the matter seriously and would take appropriate action. As parents, who are really concerned for the welfare and safety of our children, we do hope that he would seriously look into the New Year day fiasco and reprimand those responsible for their lackadaisical attitude.

A lot of money and efforts from all quarters - government,parents and the trainees themselves,have been put into the NS program to fulfill a very noble aim of instilling racial tolerance and goodwill among younger generation.

Considering the attitude of the authorities running the NS program,there is no doubt in the minds of the people that we will never achieve the desired goals of the scheme.

Sending our young children for the NS training is very serious and major decision for parents.For many of us it has many emotional repercussions as is the first time they are separated from the family.Furthermore we are forced to submit them to a certain degree of risks while in training.

The NS Department has a lot of exlaining to do and it must do it immediately.Silence on their part will only create suspicion and doubts in the minds of the people as to the real motives of the NS program.

The authorities and the officers involved in the program must be more serious in carrying out their tasks with dedication and zeal.Unless they have total and passionate committment to make the NS a success, it would be a mere waste of taxpayers' money and we may be better off to just abandon the program altogether and focus our attention on building racial integration in schools.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, January 01, 2007

Local talents must be tapped

Developing the human capital

I refer to the report “PM: Good 3 years but more to be done” (Star Dec 13).

It is reassuring to know that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, while happy with his achievements he over the last 3 years, also recognizes that he has to do more to narrow certain “lopsidedness in development in both human and physical infrastructure”.

Yes, we take pride in having fantastic mega structures but is our human capital equally well developed? Unfortunately most of these mega projects are in fact the work of foreign expertise. Human capital, in the development of a progressive nation is of utmost importance and it must be cultivated among the locals.

The PM rightly pointed out that we need people who are be mentally, physically, spiritually and morally strong. It may be easy to have people who are clever but lack these attributes that are essential for a truly progressive society.

In order to have a proper human capital we need proper training especially for the young. This has to start very early in schools and as Abdullah says we have to seriously look into our school curriculum to adapt to modern day advancements especially in the fields of science and technology. A proper mindset based on rational and logical thinking is of utmost importance in the development of a progressive modern society.

Every citizen, irrespective of ethnicity, is a potential human capital and must be given a fair opportunity to contribute his talents to the development of the country. We must put aside our differences, which are mainly in form rather than substance, and look at the many common factors that bind us as Malaysians.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Pirated VCDs

Genuine VCDs not available at affordable cost

I would like to refer to your report “Tourist belt raid nets fakes and DVDs” (Star Dec.22).
The officers from state Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement unit, police and Penang Municipal Council should be lauded for their relentless efforts to curb the sale of pirated VCDs and other branded items.

Punitive action against these errand traders is necessary, and the authorities must declare an all out war against them. It must nevertheless be borne in mind that this alone will not eradicate this illegal activity. We are all only too familiar with the scenario where these traders return soon after the raids are over. They seem to least bothered about the raids and appear to be well prepared for them.

Imitation of genuine products is not just confined to VCDs.In fact almost all products are being imitated these days. Popular brand of clothes, shoes,sports wear, electrical appliances,handphones,watches and even food and drinks are being imitated and sold openly in the markets. In fact our popular “pasars malam” are full of such imitation products.
The unsuspecting customer is often cheated, paying original price for imitation products. It is sometimes safer to buy imitation goods at lower prices rather than end up paying more for imitation ones.

A number of parties, including the consumers themselves, are too be blamed for this unhealthy trade to flourish. Most of us will agree the main reason is the unavailability of original VCDs at affordable costs. These together with the very easily available and cheap VCDs are enough to tempt even the most righteous person to purchase such items.

Besides enforcing the laws without fear or favor the authorities must look for and act to overcome the root cause of this menace. Original VCDs must be made available easily throughout the country and at a reasonable price. In this era of communication technology, it is often cheaper and easier to order such original VCDs from oversea agencies than to purchase them locally.

Education is another very important factor in overcoming this menace. Peoples’ attitude must change to accept original and avoid fake products. This should begin early in the homes and schools. People must be taught to value the sacrifices of those who produce original work and not succumb to the “I must win all” policy that is prevalent in society today.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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