KUALA LUMPUR: The problem of unequal supply and demand in medical graduates may not be resolved in the next five or 10 years, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

As such, he expects the moratorium on new medical courses and institutions, which was imposed by the Government in 2011, to continue for at least another five years.

“This is to deal with the issue of placement and excess supply,” he said.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who was present at the event, said the freeze was also aimed at increasing the number of specialists in the country.

He believes that existing medical colleges should focus more on postgraduate education instead.

He said Malaysia also needed to address the oversupply of graduates from foreign institutions.

There was an influx of future doctors from 32 local institutions and over 360 medical programmes overseas, according to him.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip said the moratorium should be indefinite.

He added that “if there are fewer housemen, they will be better trained”.

“Any review (of the moratorium) should only be done when the number of new doctors drops below 3,000 a year, for at least three years running,” he said.

According to Health Ministry statistics, 2015 saw 4,140 graduates taking up housemen duty. There are 10,835 house officers attached to 44 government hospitals nationwide now.

“Some colleges are in dire financial straits and if they go under, their licences should be cancelled and not reissued,” Dr Ashok added.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said both ministries would discuss whether there was a need to continue the freeze.

He was speaking to reporters after meeting student leaders from higher institutions of learning nationwide at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi yesterday.

Earlier, Dr Subramaniam attended simultaneous launches of the Malaysian Healthcare Media Week and the Malaysia Loves You campaign, both by the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council.

He said Malaysia wanted to raise the number of medical tourists, from 800,000 in 2015 to 1.3 million this year.