Medical Journal of Malaysia

MJM, Vol 70 Supplement 1 September 2015

Retaining healthcare professionals in east Malaysia: A Qualitative Study

Sharifah Zawani Syed Ahmad Yunus*, Pangie B**, Noriah B**

*NIH Secretariat, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, **Institute for Health Management, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur


Introduction: Inequitable distribution of healthcare professionals is a problem in Malaysia. Therefore, policy-makers are facing problems in achieving health equity and to meet the nation health needs. This concern is significant in Sabah and Sarawak as there are a lot more rural district hospitals and health clinics compared to Peninsular Malaysia. This study aims to suggest recommendations to attract and retain healthcare professionals to serve in Sabah and Sarawak.

Methods: Six focused group discussion (FGD) were conducted in Sabah, Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur until saturation reached. The panellists were doctors, dentists, and pharmacists in total of 34 respondents from various grades who originated from Peninsular Malaysia and currently are serving in Sabah or Sarawak and vice versa. A semi-structured interview were done in the FGDs and were audio-recorded. Then, verbatim transcription was done and the data was analysed thematically.

Results: The non-favourable factors are namely due to financial reason that involve inadequacy of allowance for living expenses and flight tickets. Career reason due to less opportunity to attend courses and misbelieve to gain better chances to further study. Inadequacy facilities and supplies for working. Suggestions in improving the retention of healthcare professionals in Sabah and Sarawak are to revise the allowance for the officers, the Ministry to provide flight warrant for twice a year and more quarters for the new officers, the Ministry to improve on facilities and the Ministry to help in immigration procedures for the officers as well as the family members.

Conclusion: Understanding the push factors and recommendations are important for the policy makers to develop a new policy that will help on having better distribution of healthcare professionals in Sabah and Sarawak specifically in rural district ultimately will bridge the gap in healthcare between Peninsular and East Malaysia.

Keyword: East Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, drawbacks, push factors, recommendations