KUALA LUMPUR: The shortage of nurses in Malaysia has caused several wards and intensive care units in newer hospitals to remain closed.
Revealing this on Friday, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the situation existed in hospitals including those in Serdang, Sungai Buloh, Ampang and Sungai Petani.
"Many new hospitals are not able to open wards, intensive care units and operating theatres, which need a lot of basic nurses," he told reporters after opening the 2nd Universiti Malaya Medical Centre Nursing Congress 2008.
He said as of March this year, only 85.9% of the 42,476 staff nurse posts had been filled with 6,004 posts vacant.
"The need for specialised nurses is increasing in line with increasing specialisations of medical practice," he said.
There were 11 areas, which lacked nurses with post-basic training including intensive care, coronary care, neo-natal care, paediatric care and emergency and traumatology, he said.
Only between 30% and 40% of nurses working in the 11 areas have the necessary post-basic training.
In addition to this, there are also new specialist nursing areas including HIV counselling, genetic counselling and neuro-radiology intervention.
Liow added 27 nurses from India would arrive next month following the Cabinet's approval last year to recruit 1,300 foreign nurses from Asean and Commonwealth countries over a period of three years.
There are currently 73,613 nurses of all categories and grades in Malaysia where 78% worked with the ministry and the rest were in the private and non-ministry sectors.
Training is being done at 17 nursing colleges under the ministry producing about 3,500 diploma nurses yearly while private colleges have also been roped in to help for the exercise.
He also said the highest number of complaints at hospitals were against nurses and doctors where training was carried out to ensure they had better communication skills and were competent in patient safety.
When asked about investigations being carried out against the doctor who conducted the botch cosmetic surgery on former Labuan MP Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman's wife Datin Fatimah Wan Chik who is now in a coma, Liow said he was waiting for the report to be presented to him.
Later during his keynote address for the conference, the ministry's director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said it was important for healthcare providers to realise that treatment revolved around the patient and not them.
"When I get complaints and investigations are finished, the conclusion is we had done everything possible and it is always the patient's fault. It can't be like that all the time. Some of it must be the faults in our system or because of miscommunication," he said.
He added doctors and nurses needed to have the right attitude when meeting patients including smiling where it would help them feel more comfortable.
"I hear many stories about doctors and nurses from friends and family or even at the supermarkets from people about their relationship with healthcare providers. And (cases) do occur where staff like nurses are rude or uncaring. This minority should be wiped out so they do not tarnish the others," he said.