Too many physiotherapists in Malaysia

As a result of opening up training in the sector from 2007, Malaysia, it appears, is going to have far too many physiotherapists in the near future. Until late 2005, there were only three colleges offering physiotherapy courses, with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia starting a bachelor’s programme. Today, there are 20 colleges offering such courses at the diploma level.

As such, the Malaysian Physiotherapist Association (MPA) wants the government to put the brakes when it comes to issuing new licences to colleges and institutes of higher learning to provide such courses. “The consequent exponential growth in the number of physiotherapists in the Malaysian health sector may be a cause for concern that the discipline is becoming saturated to the point where we may become the victims of the law of diminishing returns,” said MPA president Dr Balwant Singh Bains. He said that there were 209 private and 157 public hospitals in the country, employing about 750 physiotherapists. About 100 physiotherapists are employed by non-governmental organisations and by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. Besides that, about 35 physiotherapists run private practices and 50 are working in private clinics. He said the average ratio of physiotherapists to the country’s population was 1:27,000 compared with 1:14,000 for developed countries and 1:500,000 for under developed countries. He predicted that there would be about 19,000 physiotherapists in the country by 2020 when the estimated population would be 30 million, giving a ratio of 1:1,700. As such, he said there was a reason to revisit the targets as it indicated an oversupply of physiotherapists only having diplomas. He suggested that the physiotherapists being produced could be appointed to schools under the post-graduate teachers scheme (KPLI). “They can become teachers and get into various specialities and even become physical educators,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in his speech at the opening of the MPA’s 47th annual general meeting and scientific conference here yesterday, called on the physiotherapy practitioners in the country to provide their input on health awareness among schoolchildren. He said such a campaign would be an effective platform to educate the country’s young people as well as their parents on practising a healthy lifestyle and leading a healthy life. As part of the effort to address the problem of childhood obesity and other health issues among the young, he encouraged the MPA to collaborate with the Education Ministry to organise health awareness campaigns in schools.