Medical Journal of Malaysia

MJM, Vol 70 Supplement 1 September 2015

“Why are we here?” The reasons of healthcare professionals from Peninsular Malaysia to serve in Sabah and Sarawak: Qualitative study

Pangie B, Noriah B, N Izzah S,

Institute for Health Management, Kuala Lumpur


Introduction: In Malaysia, maldistribution of health workers especially healthcare professionals (HCPs) is an on-going problem. Due to huge land size and vastly scattered population, maldistribution of health workers is more prevalent in Sabah and Sarawak (S&S). The shortage of HCP in Sabah and Sarawak influences the medical services to the S&S population. However, there are still HCPs from Peninsular Malaysia (PM) who are dedicated to continue serving in S&S. Thus, this study was conducted to determine the pull factors that influence HCP from PM to continue their services in S&S.

Methodology: Purposive sampling was employed to recruit HCP from PM who is serving in S&S for this focus group discussion (FGD). They were four sessions of FGD conducted in S&S consisted of 13 doctors, seven dentists and five pharmacists from different grades, workplaces and backgrounds until data saturation was achieved. The FGDs were conducted using semi-structured guide. They were recorded, transcribed as verbatim and analysed using thematic approach.

Results: The pull factors were divided into themes of personal reasons, community related reasons, family-/friends-related reasons, environment or living related reasons, working condition and career related reasons. For personal reasons: they were married to locals and passionate with their work regardless of the workplace. They preferred to stay if their family, spouse and friends were working in same area and city. The unique nature in S&S also attracts them to stay longer. Based on working condition, the support from superiors, colleagues and supportive staffs were good. They gained more working experience and had better chances for their promotion and career development.

Conclusion: The understanding of these pull factors is crucial for stakeholders in decision making for placement of HCPs from PM. These factors can be utilised to promote S&S as an attractive place to work and further assist the plan for retention.

Keywords: Healthcare Professionals, Pull Factors, Service in Sabah and Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia