PETALING JAYA Feb 29, 2012: PSM central committee member Dr D Michael Jeyakumar took former Health Ministry director-general Ismail Merican to task over Mahsa University College’s (Mahsa) full-page advertisement in an English daily for its nursing diploma programme.
“Mahsa and its pro-chancellor are being highly irresponsible in taking out a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Star to entice parents to send their children to a course where there is now a gross over-supply.
“If Mahsa and its pro-chancellor took out the full-page statement despite knowing these facts, then their action crosses the line demarcating irresponsible from despicable,” Jeyakumar said in a press statement yesterday.
Ismail is also Mahsa College’s pro-chancellor and chairman.
Jeyakumar revealed that the Health Ministry does not recruit a large number of nursing graduates from private colleges.
“In the five years from 2006 till 2010, only 993 graduates from private nursing colleges were offered jobs by the government, which works out to fewer than 200 a year,” said Jeyakumar, who is also Sungai Siput MP.
He added that those in the nursing industry had told him that annually 7% of the nurses needed to be replaced.
As of December 2010, there were 69,110 staff nurses. Of this, 47,992 are in the government service and 21,118 in the private sector.
“Seven percent (in the private sector) is equivalent to 1,478 vacancies. Annually there are 12,000 graduates but 10,332 will not get job placements for the next few years,” Jeyakumar said.
A challenge to Mahsa
Jeyakumar was piqued by Ismail’s claim that Malaysia needs thousands more nurses to achieve a 1:200 nurse-to-patient ratio, which is the World Health Organisation criteria for a developed nation.
“It reveals extremely muddled thinking or is it a cynical attempt to mislead people? His [Ismail's] assertion seems to imply that Mahsa is contributing to Malaysia becoming a developed nation by training more nurses,” Jeyakumar said.
He said that the ratio can be achieved in advanced countries as they had more health institutions and specialised nursing programmes for specific ailments unlike Malaysia.
He also accused Mahsa and Ismail of promoting the nursing course to rake in profits in the form of National Higher Education Loan (PTPTN) funds.
“Mahsa and the other private colleges can earn an average of RM25,000 from PTPTN loans that the Higher Education Ministry unquestioningly approves for each of the students registered in the nursing programme.
“Let’s face facts… this is the motivating factor for your [Mahsa's] nurses training programme, it’s neither nationalistic nor altruistic,” said the physician-turned-politician.
Jeyakumar dared the college to secure jobs for its nursing graduates and repay students’ loans in the event graduates do not get a job.
“Until this employment problem faced by Mahsa graduates can be solved, the only decent thing Mahsa and its pro-chancellor can do is to stop taking in any more students for the nursing diploma course,” he added.