Spoilt, incompetent, weak sum up majority of housemen – a concerned senior doctor

Standards of healthcare in jeopardy with substandard house officers

(The Vibes) – I HAVE read with increasing anxiety the newspaper articles, opinions, and not the least the vitriol from some of our politicians on the recent deaths of two housemen or house officers in Penang.

As a person who spent five years of his life heavily involved in the training of the said house officers, let me give a more balanced view of what is happening and also suggest the solution.

Firstly, let us look at the structure:

1. Housemen (house officer) – their training used to last a year, but now due to various reasons it has been increased to two years
2. Medical officer – masters candidates and non-masters candidates
3. Specialists
4. Subspecialists

Now if one is to look at the structure, one gets a better idea of things.

The house officer is like a lieutenant in an army. He should be well-trained, prior to him or her being sent to the battlefield. It is not the job of the medical officer or specialist to retrain them if they have not been trained by their respective medical schools.

The path to becoming a specialist and further subspecialists like myself takes much sacrifice and many many more exams. If you are not even competent to complete your housemanship training, then how would you be able to reach the levels of specialist and subspecialist?

Can we compromise on patient care because we want to mollycoddle these young housemen?

There is a huge bottleneck after completing medical officership (housemanship) as the places for specialist training are limited, this being rightly so as the training is very hands-on and intensive.

It takes about four years and many more exams, both written and practical, to make a specialist. For sub-specialists, it is even more difficult. Only one or two per year in each discipline by the Health Ministry.

Even so, our higher-ups are trying to make it easier for them. So we start churning out sub-standard “specialists”!

Read more here