The Medical Mafia and ‘University Myanmar Sabah’

by LKT

I refer to your letter “University Myanmar Sabah” where the author lists various problems with the administration, staffing and ultimately blames the Dean, albeit prematurely, for the shortcomings of this Medical Faculty.

As long as there is a need for doctors and a concomitant maintenance in the rise of standards or medical technology exists, the evolution or expansion of medical schools here in Malaysia must be encouraged contrary to the opinions of some of your readers that a number of of these facilities ought to be shut down.

Development of local-based medical universities is critical if we are going to keep costs down and maintain standards instead of sending our bright but financially underprivileged children to such institutions based in Indonesia and Russia which did not have the benefit of a British educational input which has helped this country on previous occasions to have word class standards in medical care.

In 1962, when Thumboo John Danaraj was appointed the Foundation Dean to the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, he proposed that the Medical Faculty should have its own hospital.

Up to the 1950’s, the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore, which was known previously as King Edward VII College of Medicine had been the only medical school in Malaya and Singapore. The output of doctors at that time was small: 60 per year forcing many Malaysians to go overseas to seek undergraduate medical education.

Construction of the faculty building began in July 1963 right through March 1967 when the first wards were opened culminating finally in the completion of the Paediatric, Maternity and Rehabilitation Units which became functional in March 1968.

On 5th August 1968, the University Hospital was officially opened by the Agong. University Malaya had a world class Faculty and Hospital. But what of the lecturers?

T.J. Danaraj had no qualms bringing in the best lecturers he could afford and most of these lecturers originated from the Indian subcontinent, some of whom are still with the University. The country had not enough doctors let alone lecturers and in the initial years the University Hospital had to depend on a large expatriate population to help establish this school.

Although the working capital for this Malaysian medical icon came from both the Ministry of Education and Health, trouble was already brewing at the Ministry of Health, known those days and even sometimes today as the “Medical Mafia” which wanted to have the final say in all things medical in this country. They refused initially to recognise housemanship at the UH as part of the 4-year compulsory service until there were widespread protests by UH doctors.

But things were much worse at UKM with almost daily skirmishes between the MOH and UKM lecturers, nurses and students at clinics, wards, operating theaters and even corridors as to whose hospital or turf it was at the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur until the then Dean, Khalid Kadir, had to literally beg Anwar Ibrahim for money to set up the current HUKM.

Similarly when the MOH put up their new hospital at Kubang Krian, wanting to move their old hospital which frequently had to face floods, there was a stand-off between USM and the MOH, both of whom wanted the hospital. Tengku Razaleigh had to step in at that time and gave preference to USM renaming the hospital to HUSM.

Primary and secondary specialties, facilities and equipment at the UH, HUKM and HUSM are certainly better then any MOH hospital because they are independent and have that extra edge having better educational and research facilities.

Universities having to face this nightmare apart from University Sabah Malaysia are UITM which till this day “shares” a hospital with Selayang but its lecturers are not given clinical or operating rights in that hospital.

Hospital Serdang is built on UPM land but is run by the MOH and almost everything the Dean decides is overturned by MOH’s Hospital Director. UNIMAS which is supposed to share Hospital Umum Sarawak is literally treated like a leper when it comes to utilization of the hospitals facilities.

UIA shares the Kuantan GH with the MOH but is constantly scuppered when it attempts to upgrade services. IMU gets along at Seremban GH only because its President is a previous DG of Health. But all the other private medical colleges like Manipal in Malacca, Perak College of Medicine at Ipoh and AIIMST at Sungai Petani run “medical schools”.

How this is possible is beyond comprehension. A student only becomes a good doctor if he/she sees many cases and reads around the subject. Lecturers who are virtually stopped from seeing patients because of this turf war, no matter how good they are, can only do so much. A surgical lecturer cannot show a student what a hernia repair entails and how the patient is followed up if they are not involved. Medical education is an apprenticeship. It always has been and will always will be.

Teaching of our students, our own children, should be every doctor’s responsibility and joy, for they are our future. But this horrendous personal interests coupled with animosity and a rivalry without basis by the MOH is wreaking havoc for medical education in this country.

It was proposed to the Higher Education Minister, Mustapha, last year that general hospitals be turned over to medical schools and money be further invested into these hospitals to upgrade services and research. But the MOH talked him out of it.

We may be nearing our 50th year of independence but if you had the opportunity to work in Sabah, you would have discovered that diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are not yet eradicated, let alone dengue.

Many state governments want to upgrade health services in their own states very badly for health is one way you can show people directly that you care which is why they clamor for a medical school. But not everyone understands the reasons why development of these schools are sometimes stunted unlike Indonesia and India where medical colleges rapidly mushroom all the time.

Having a medical school is certainly a great impetus to advance healthcare. Having expatriates is not the problem. It is the third world mentality of our civil service at the MOH that is dragging this country’s healthcare down the tubes.

Chua Soi Lek and Ismail Merican may lament the questionable quality of some of our doctors but they are greatly responsible for the current state of affairs. The government, in particular, the Higher Education Ministry must step in and must take alternate advice instead of being subservient or cowed into believing that the MOH are the authority.

Education must take precedence if we are serious about providing proper healthcare to Malaysians and this can only happen if this “ship with two captains” syndrome is eradicated.

Failure to do so would further condemn our nascent medical schools to closure, forcing our prospective medical undergraduates, as during the period of the singular King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore, to go to Indonesia, Ukraine, Russia and countries which didn’t have the benefit of our once premier health care standards.

T.J. Danaraj was visionary, even in the 50’s when he foresaw that in the Malaysian setting, a medical faculty must have its own hospital.

  1. #1 by ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 7:10 am

    I am sure Mr. T.J Danaraj is an Indian. first generation malaysian or an expatriate from India.

    This article is refreshing to note the system stinks because of the so called ‘mafias’ . certainly it has nothing to do with the nationality of the person involved.

    If the system lowers the entry requirement for special medical students, than even the best lecturer from USA would not be of any good.

    Similarly, any fraud detected and should be detected by the system on the credibilities of the so call lecturers.

    many malaysians are sending their children to India and Russia for medical degree. this is most unfortunate.

    on another aspect. many taiwan graduates are as good if not better than local graduates,but they are not given the opportunities to serve the country.


    are those graduates from taiwan university not profficient. ?


  2. #2 by megaman on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 9:57 am

    it is hard for the msian gov to recognize taiwanese degrees due to the “special status” of the country itself …

    How to recognize the degrees when we don’t actually recognize Taiwan as a proper country ?

    We should try to get the best lecturers and professionals from other countries or get our own to return and serve. However, top professionals have higher demands and requirements which is totally justifiable. Therefore, we might not be able to attract many or any at all.

    However, this does not mean we can get any “professionals” as long as they are cheap and available. The proper screenings and checks have to be performed.

    Don’t think this is the norm in Msia though. Authorities in Msia are too used to shooting off their hip and employing half-hearted measures.

  3. #3 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 10:13 am

    Most of us know the answers.

    But Dr. Chua Soi Lek doesn’t! How can, man?

  4. #4 by madmix on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 10:57 am

    I still say, do not open any more medical schools and close down the ones that have staffing difficulties. Instead increase the intake of the existing ones after expanding their staff and facilities.

  5. #5 by crab on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 12:03 pm

    Well you have to understand that all Medical services has been privatised by the previous govenrment. If the Universities are to have a part in the exisitng Hospitals by MOH, ppl would be losing their cuts from these privatision. I don’t see any improvement on it as the medical cost are always rising. So how does it help the Rakyat who are in need of medical attention.

    Therefore overall system needs to be reviewed. The sad thing is everyone in power wants to change a policy. Being bereaucratics implementations are very slow & as policy changes with person in power nothing really happens. Shortage of doctors has been around since we had independence.

    How is that the Medical community not resolved this issue? Is everyone out there to make a quick buck?

    Its the same as education system. To many changes by the person in power. All these fields MUST have a long term plan for every new person who comes in power to follow. They may twig/refine various aspect of the long term policy BUT never change them to meet their political survival. Sad to our education system was hijacked by survival instincts of the politicians and now we the nation are suffering from it IN EVERY ASPECT of our lifes.

  6. #6 by dawsheng on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 12:37 pm

    A lot of things doesn’t make sense in this country. It doesn’t make sense why everything has to be so wrong. Yeap, be prepared for worst case scenario.

  7. #7 by pulau_sibu on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 12:48 pm

    We have too many doctors who turned themselves into politicians. We can supply you with Dr. Soon (assistant minister) and Dr. George Chan (deputy chief minister) from Sarawak. The retired Dr. Mahathir, Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Dr. Lim Keng Yik,Dr. Wong Soon Kai, ….all should come back to serve the communities.

  8. #8 by ihavesomethingtosay on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 4:23 pm

    MCA ministers past and present are no better than Mafias, they should all be under house arrest.

  9. #9 by cg on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 5:55 pm

    I heard that even our beloved TDM went out of the country for heart operation, he must be really not confidence with the medical service quality in the country as a PM of the country (at that time) and a Dr himself.

    Why no measurements for improvement since you know that the quality is low? That I can’t understand.

  10. #10 by ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 - 9:59 pm


    Sorry Sir/Madam.



    than taiwanese investments in malaysia rank among the top ten.

    why invite taiwan investments into malaysia, but cannot accept taiwan graduates. THAT CONTRADICTS.

    please check with miti on taiwan investment in malaysia.

    thank you.

  11. #11 by mjkh_kl on Friday, 17 August 2007 - 11:26 pm

    i would like to respond to the article concerned.
    i am a medical student in UMS…
    It is extremely unfair for people to judge our medical school when they have not even looked at the conditions here. I wouldnt say that the conditions here are the best in our country but it is on par with almost all medical schools in Malaysia. As a student here, i feel extremely offended that we were thought to be incompetent.Are we too stupid to become doctors????…we worked hard to enter this medical school, we chose to be here because of the good things that we have heard….other people can say whatever they want and judge us the way they want..but i can assure you that we are as capable as any other medical student from other universities. In my opinion,we have the best clinical experience here compared to other universities. QEH is the referral center for the whole of Sabah, therefore we get a lot of exposure during our clinical years. Isnt that better for our future patients, for us to get as much exposure in our clinical practice. Experience is extremely important in the medical profession and I consider myself lucky to be able to study here and serve the people here.
    What have been said by ‘some’ people are extremely biased and does not reflect the medical school of UMS. We do have a lot of burmese lecturers, but from what i have observed they are as good if not better than the current medical officers in Sabah. Do not blame us or the burmese lecturers because we have not done anything wrong.

  12. #12 by UMSgirl on Saturday, 18 August 2007 - 8:16 pm

    i am writing this not because im one of the students studying at UMS… i am proud to be part of UMS… I have seen so many medical officers graduated from so-called ” good” universities but their skills are to be questioned. We have more bedside teachings than other universities. We learn by ourselves and we don’t rely on lecture notes. The Burmese are good. i don’t know why the writer said that they are not qualified. They are so dedicated and helped us a lot, more than the local lecturers. Don’t judge a book by its cover… hey, totally bias. In fact i noticed that doctors from new universities such as UNIMAS, IMU are good… they managed to set good reputation compared to UM, UKM and USM…. in fact UKM doctors are the ones who should be questioned. Some of them do not show good skills. One of the QEH surgeon told us that new universities produces better graduates since the students have to struggle on their own and tend to learn more, compared to the old spoon feeding style. I totally disagree this. I scored 4.00 in STPM and one of the best student in my state but i did not chose USM or UM because my aunty who is a cardiologist told me that she supervised 3 supperb, and execellent 3rd year medical students from UMS who did their elective students at one of the hospital in KL ( not to be mentioned ). she said that they are good, in fact they were able to assist surgery too–> compared to her own students from that teaching hospital.we have good seniors, the 30 of them who will be graduating soon. Half of them are really good and in fact they got good recommendation from all the hospital they went to during elective postings. … Hey, that person who write the letter could be someone who envy UMS…. irony!!! go to any district hospitals in Sabah and you will know that UMS did well… not forgetting QEH too!!! Just wait and see…. i just hope that person who srite the letter will be traced and finally expel from UMS because we don’t need such arrogant student here and that person might be someone who is struggling really hard but could not get through all the hardships….!!!!

  13. #13 by nckeat88 on Sunday, 19 August 2007 - 10:12 am

    UMSgirl: I certainly cannot agree with your view. Your criticism on medical student from other local univerisity and trying to glorify your own school just show how immature your ‘braincells’. In any medical schools, the quality of students produced varies from bad to average and excellent. The most important thing about producing good doctors is the medical school must have good lectures, adequate facilities and patietns and correct teachers : students ratio and curiculum which suit own own need. Everybody do proud of their own school but this do not give you the right to humilate other medical school because they too are proud of thier own school as well. To score 4.00 in STPM doesn’t mean you can become a good doctor, in fact I think you are arrogant on the way you criticise your other colleague. You are looking down to other because they are not 4.00 scorers like you!

    (I believe your head of O&G in QE is UKM graduate, he is one of the nest specialist in the contry and I think he has don so much for the departmetn as well, so do you think he came from the your so called bad medical school as well compared to yours?)

  14. #14 by UMSgirl on Sunday, 19 August 2007 - 5:11 pm

    nckeat88: i have no intention to comment on other university. why can’t people take the comment when so many people commented on us???. the O&G specialist does come come UKM but that was years back…. when they themselves faces lack of lecturers… there are so many incidence happening around the hospital.. just go to the community in Sabah and ask which qualified doctors do they prefer… i can say that they prefer graduates from newly established university eg : UNIMAS, UPM and of course IMU. it’s not all about knowlegde… if human touch losses its magic. HUmble doctors are better than those super-duper hi-fi doctors who are rude. in this case, don’t blame the students… we are not that bad. so many students who failed before but went to oversea,, they are never commented. who says previous achievement is not important??? you can be mad if someone comment on your university but why can’t I be mad if someone commented my university who does not een know what is going on…. by just looking what is there on the surface… i learned more from some burmese who are good… old university did use Burmese doctors… so?? Everybody do proud of their own school but this do not give you the right to humilate other medical school because they too are proud of thier own school as wel–> so why humiliate my university. other new university has Burmese too so??? we have doctors from india, eygpt, indonesia etc–> so do people want to regard our university as a multiracial university??? go ahead–> in fact im proud of it. UITM,UNIMAS and IMU have Burmese too, UMS is not the only one. stop being a racist.

  15. #15 by umsstudents on Monday, 20 August 2007 - 8:44 pm

    UMSgirl: please stop criticizing others, u r making the condition worse and sorry for those who are offended by “UMSgirl”‘s message.
    UMSgirl: after you graduate, be a good doctor. Prove to other people that ‘you’ are really “that good”. to prove u deserve a stpm 4 flat.

  16. #16 by Illidan on Monday, 20 August 2007 - 10:03 pm

    Firstly, I agree with umsstudents. Dear, UMSgirl, it seems like you don’t know much about everything that has happened. The problems were all in the administration. Do you really know what had happened among those administrators? Why are you making comments with your narrow mind? It’s so obvious that you are making things worst. Why not just be a student and do what you are supposed to be responsible of and leave these to the others since you are not helping at all?
    Yes, it’s not fair to judge the lecturers. And you kept on stressing that. But the fact is that you are doing the same by judging others. With that, I agree with nckeat88. Do you notice that you have broken one of our vows which is “We will not belittle our colleague”? How can you be so overly proud of yourself by making statement that portrayed yourself as so damn good and other graduates were not much better? How different are you from the ones that posted these two topics of “Universiti Myanmar Sabah” and “The Medical Mafia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah”? By saying that you scored so well in your exams and your friends who didn’t even qualify have to do their studies in Russia and Ukraine, aren’t you belittling them? Is this how you show your humane side? Making the failures of the others as you glory showed that you were taking the opportunity of these blog topics to glorified yourself. How immature!
    If you were that good, you wouldn’t be bothered to bring out names of other universities to make your statement. If fact, which bunch people are you comparing yourself to? Just because most of the time you met with those who are average, doesn’t make you really good. Try comparing yourself with those who are so damn good and then make your statement.
    So I suggest that you leave your comments to yourself until you figure out what that is really happening as most of your statements were just glorifying yourself and it had nothing much to do with the topics.

  17. #17 by UMSgirl on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 - 7:43 pm

    i would like to apologize for whatever that i have said.

  18. #18 by UMSgirl on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 - 7:53 pm

    OK criticizing other university is really bad- i am sorry for that. It does not matter when people talk badly about UMS because there is nothing that we can do to change their thinking.All medical students are good, regardless of where they come from. I just hope that people will not simply judge UMS just by reading this article, anyway this is just a blog and we can never know the reality behind the topic. Anybody can post such topic. As far as i knew, the dean and the vice cancelor have put up effort to investigate this matter. Let me clarify something. There are 40+ lecturers- TRUE but these are official lecturers who are attached to UMS but this figure does not include the adjunct professors, clinicians, specialists of each department in QE, Likas etc who have been teaching the students. anyway they are the majority so after adding the total number of lecturers, the ratio of BURMESE to non- BURMESE is of course, less than 40+% as mentioned earlier. That is why, commenting a university without knowing the real situation is just as bad as commenting someone without knowing the person. ” tak kenal maka tak cinta” ( *_* ). I did my elective posting at teaching hospital in KL, and i did not feel that there are any difference between ‘here’ and ‘there’. in fact,just the same ( but UMS students have been scolded more than the students there even during 1st year at Queen because our teachers are great great consultants from QEH–> even the medical officers are scared of them ha ha. ). somehow we do feel discouraged, mentally and emotionally but hey look at the bright side, after this issue submitted, all students and supporters have become stronger, closer ( thank you so much !!! ). UKM, UM , USM etc are older universities, and these are good universities but they were once as young as UMS and faced the similar problem ( my aunty who is the consultant at one of the private hospital in KL said so ) but they become good–> takes time too. Sabah has problems , shortage of medical officers. Therefore, UMS is fully supported . if we were to tackle this problem, we should support the new universities. Moreover, UMS itself is based in Sabah. The older universities cannot accept so many students as they themselves are facing problem with lecturers.If UMS were to employ Japanese, Americans etc lecturers, will you regard them as University of America/Japan Sabah?? I guess people will be so happy since our mind was set to label Americans and Japanese are the great thinkers. That will become a pride. When UMS become University of Mynmar Sabah, people will look down on that why?? Just like when the Africans took over the Whites. Think about the feeling of these poor Burmese lecturers. em, should we have this sort of thinking eg :
    ” made in Japan–> good )
    ” made in Korea–> not bad)
    ” made in China –> hem…no comment )
    but made in Malaysia –> no way….

  19. #19 by UMSgirl on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 - 9:50 pm

    What i have said was only based on what the doctors /specialists have told me but personally i have to intention to comment or compare on other universities. i am sorry for that,, for defending myself. After thinking ,i realize that i am wrong but put yourself in my might be angrier than me but i am sorry. People questioning about the qualification of all the students entering UMS–> the government made the decision. All of us affected. i just can’t take it when people are being so rude and harsh. Please end this issue.Like ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH, this issue is bad. anyway i am sorry. Please, don’t humiliate my university too. The students will get all the blame and we suffer even though the problem does not arise from us. we did not do anything.

    p/s this article does not only involve UMS, but all the new universities, including those which have been acreditated. should all new universities face the blame? when can medicine moves without politics. please, stop this.

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