It is indeed a very good decision that the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) is willing to take up the responsibility to organise a centralised professional medical examination.
I do understand that in view that this is a newly-developed system and it is the first time organising it, there will be many areas that need to be improved.
I believe that MMC and its committee members have given their best effort and hard work in planning and executing this programme.
However, as a matter of fact, there are too many areas that need to be done.
Please bear with me as I would like to share my personal story. I graduated from a Malaysian medical school in September 2015. Unfortunately, my medical school is not acknowledged by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
As a result, in order for me to be able to register with MMC and continue my medical training/start housemanship, I need to sit for the Malaysia Qualifying Examination (MQE).
MQE is a professional exam for medical graduates who are from medical schools not acknowledged by MQA, whether international or local. Hence, I have decided to prepare to sit for it.
According to MMC’s official website, there are 22 universities that are organising MQE, but after I attempted to contact all 22 potential universities, I discovered there are only less than half that are still organizing MQE.
The reasons are because some schools no longer provide this service due to limited candidates, some are not open to the public and only cater for in-house medical students.
Generally, the exam will cost about RM3,000. Unfortunately, due to financial issues and other logistic problems, I could not sit for the exam which was organised in May 2016 (please note that since I graduated in September 2015, I have waited for eight months at this point of time).
I hereby congratulate my dear colleagues who have passed the exam and are waiting for their provisional registration and continue on to their internship.
As for me, just like any other university student, I would need to work as a part-timer in order to fund myself to sit for the next MQE exam.
But there was shocking news in June 2016 that MMC has decided to organise a centralised medical professional exam, the Examination for Provisional Registration (EPR), MMC no longer authorised other local universities to organise MQE.
As mentioned, it is a good move in order to ensure the exam is standardised for all potential candidates.
As a result of this news, I’ve been in close contact with the MMC exam unit. After several discussions, I was informed by one of the staff, Miss D, that the exam most probably will be held at the end of 2016.
I was surprised that with their hard work and careful planning, they could not fix a date or give me a confirmed date so that I could plan my working schedule and study. After countless phone calls and visits to MMC, the best answer I could get is November or December 2016.
I am disappointed, but from a different point of view, I have more time to prepare for EPR. Unfortunately, the shock did not end here. During early July, in the hope that after one month of in-depth discussions and planning among the committee members, MMC could finally give me the confirmed date for EPR, I contacted MMC again.
Exam date three days away
Shockingly, I was informed that the first EPR examination would be held in July 2016. As for the date, surprisingly, the answer that I received was MMC would announce the exact date once confirmation had been made.
Finally, on July 25, 2016, I found out the exam date on MMC’s official website, another shocking news, as the confirmed date was on July 28, 2016, which was three days away. I was greatly disoriented and unprepared.
Frustrated, I went to meet with several of the MMC staff and tried to find a common ground for both parties, but there was no room for discussion. The reason given was - you are a medical graduate, even with such extreme short notice, you should be able to recall your medical knowledge and perform well in the exam.
I could only partially agree with this statement, please do bear in mind that I graduated in September 2015, and ever since then, I had been working part time in order to earn a living and thus, have minimal exposure in the medical industry.
Another issue is the comparison between the previous exam, MQE which cost RM2,500-RM3,000 (including Theory and Clinical exams), the new exam, EPR will cost RM7,000 (including Theory and Clinical Exam) in total.
Besides, with such short notice, if I were to terminate my employment with my current employer, I would be subjected to short-notice termination, meaning I would be sued or have to pay the termination cost, which I could not afford to do so.
With all of the above reasons, painfully, I have to give this exam a miss.
With the experience of previous encounters with MMC, I have learnt my lesson, since I have missed the first EPR, what I could do best now is to get the confirmation date for the second EPR.
However, the same thing happened, I was informed that MMC would plan to organise EPR twice a year, the first in July, as for the second EPR, tentatively would be in November or December, again, the date is to be confirmed.
Please do note that at this point of time, I have been unemployed and have waited for a year and three months for the coming EPR.
Time passed and finally, I quit my job during November and readied myself for the long-awaited EPR.
Again, in order to have the exact date for the exam, I contacted MMC again. To my dismay, the MMC staff informed me that the date had been postponed from December to January. And again, there was no confirmed date yet. I was informed that tentatively it will be the end of January. There was no clear explanation whatsoever.
Discouraged, in view that there is no other option like MQE or any other alternatives, I have to accept this fact and fully utilise my time to study and to survive based on the little income that I have accumulated previously.
Finally, approaching December, and as now it has already became part of my ritual, I contacted MMC again for the confirmed date of the long awaited EPR.
January date postponed again to March 2017
To my greatest fear, the January date is postponed again to March 2017. The reasons given are - MMC is occupied with the new contract-based provisional registered doctors, they have limited manpower to organise the theory exam, besides, since the date is near to the Chinese New Year public holidays, MMC would like to postpone the date to March, and again, tentatively is March, the date is to be confirmed.
Note: if the proposed date is March, this means I have waited for one-and-a-half years, just to sit for this exam. And there is a possibility of it being postponed, since up until now, there is no confirmed date given.
It is unacceptable for a professional well-organised government body to do so. It is very unfair to those medical graduates, including myself.
I strongly believe that there is great potential and rapid development in the Malaysian medical industry and many great learning opportunities available for those who truly love to practice medicine and are passionate in treating patients by giving back to the community.
However, with MMC’s way of organising the exam, it is very discouraging and unorganised.
If MMC does not have the resources, please do not make the previous MQE exam obsolete. There are many potential and good medical schools which are capable of doing so.
In addition, MMC does not have the facilities to conduct a hospital-based clinical exam, which means the candidates who passed the first EPR in July have to wait until there is a sufficient number of candidates to pass the EPR, only then could he or she proceed with the second part of EPR, the clinical exam. And again, there are local medical schools which have their own medical facilities to organise such an exam.
Which brings me to another point, by comparing the fees of the MQE and EPR, may I know why there is such a big difference in the total fees of the exams? As mentioned, the previous MQE cost about RM2,500-RM3,000 (depending on which medical school), but the current EPR cost RM7,000. Both exam fees are inclusive of theory and exam paper.
Another difference between the two exams is - MQE offers training and classes (optional) for those who are interested before they sit for the exam, the total course would take about three months, and of course the fees will be much higher (RM30,000). As for EPR, MMC does not provide any form of training or classes because they have limited resources and facilities.
Besides, there is no confirmed date for the EPR since it was first implemented in July; the date has been changed continuously without notice (no new update on the website) or email to notify the candidates who have already made the payment and waiting for a confirmed date.
It is true that we, as medical graduates are very enthusiastic about serving our fellow Malaysians as medical doctors, and there are many things we need to learn, especially from our patients and the Malaysian medical system.
But we are being held up at the front door before we could even start to practice medicine. It is very disappointing indeed. I hereby earnestly write to you in the hope that there will be transparency in handling those medical graduates who are not acknowledged by MQA.
Please allow other local medical schools to organise the EPR, just like MQE. Or if you could, please fix a confirmed date of the next EPR exam without any more changes.
To date, I have waited one year and three months for your proposed EPR. We desperately need a confirmed date, because after graduating, we, just like other university graduates, need to plan our time to work, to earn a living, and to study, to prepare for EPR.