Top UK college reps meet senior govt officials over parallel pathway

(From right) Deputy chief secretary (finance) Norazman Ayob with Dr Michael Lewis and Dr Tim Graham during their meeting last week. (X pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two senior surgeons and academics from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) met with senior government officials last week to clear the air about cardiothoracic surgeons from the parallel pathway programme.

RCSEd vice-president Dr Tim Graham and Dr Michael Lewis, chairman of the joint committee on intercollegiate examinations, joined the meeting which was chaired by deputy chief secretary (finance) Norazman Ayob.

Also present were deputy health director-general (medical) Dr Nor Azimi Yunus and the ministry’s chief cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Basheer Ahamed Kareem, who is the president of the Malaysian Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad and director-general Dr Radzi Abu Hassan could not join the meeting as they are overseas leading the Malaysian delegation to the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

A source said the two academics from RCSEd sought to clear the air concerning the Malaysian Medical Council’s (MMC) non-recognition of the parallel pathway programme and doubts raised by certain quarters on the quality of the qualifications.

“Graham told the meeting that the British medical authorities recognised the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) obtained by Malaysian surgeons via the parallel pathway as equivalent in standards to the specialist qualification obtained by all successful UK trainees.

“Lewis, who is in charge of the intercollegiate examination which UK trainees sit for, said the (parallel pathway) examination is of the same standard and scope, utilising a similar syllabus as the Joint Speciality Fellowship FRCS in Cardiothoracic Surgery (FRCS CT Ed) examinations for international students.

“He is in charge of both,” the source told FMT.

The intercollegiate examination is the only qualification currently present in the MMC’s list, although the parallel pathway’s FRCS CT Ed was listed until 2021.

The academics also gave an assurance that surgeons with the FRCS CT Ed were eligible to apply to the British General Medical Council to be listed as specialists.

However, they would have to undergo assessments via the UK’s portfolio pathway, similar to the practice in other countries, including Malaysia, before being registered as specialists.

The source said the two academics also conveyed their displeasure with certain quarters raising questions about the quality of the parallel pathway training, adding that RCSEd had worked hard over the last decade to ensure this would not be compromised.

“Graham even admitted that many parallel pathway graduates perform better than most of their UK counterparts in the examinations,” the source added.

Others at the meeting included Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia pro vice-chancellor Dr Hanafiah Harunarashid, who had warned that Malaysia was set to lose cardiothoracic surgeons trained under the parallel pathway programme, with two already offered jobs in the UK.

“Everyone at the meeting emphasised that it was never the intention of the RCSEd and the Malaysian health ministry to train these surgeons to work in the UK or even to obtain the British General Medical Council’s recognition automatically.

“They all agreed that the objective was to deliver a world-class qualification to deserving Malaysian doctors who undergo the rigorous training programme, to enable them to work in their home country and serve Malaysians who are in dire need of urgent heart surgery,” the source said.

The source added that there were about 10 cardiothoracic surgeons who had graduated from the parallel programme so far and were waiting to be recognised.

“Can you imagine the fate of the 1,850 heart patients waiting for surgery at the Serdang and Penang hospitals if they are not recognised? Precious time is being wasted and this can cause death.”


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