The government plans to allow only female doctors to assist in childbirth at public hospitals, Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya said.
However, the plan is on hold because there are not enough female doctors in the obstetrics and gynaecology line, Hilmi told reporters in Balik Pulau yesterday.
"There are more female doctors (than male doctors) in public service but not many female doctors are interested in obstetrics and gynaecology.
"So we have to wait until there are more trained female doctors in this line," Bernama reported Hilmi as saying, after distributing Hari Raya hampers and contributions to 50 patients at Hospital Balik Pulau.
In 2013, the Health Ministry received a petition to only allow female doctors and nurses to work in the labour room and maternity ward, in the interest of the aurat (modesty) of Muslim patients.
The petition, signed by 6880 people, urged the ministry to incentivise women to take up obstetrics and gynaecology, and raise awareness among medical professionals of the aurat requirements during childbirth.
It is generally accepted that a Muslim woman can show only her face and hands to members of the opposite gender that she is not related to.
Some Muslim women have also opted to wear "birthing pants", which cover the mother's thighs, ankles and knees during childbirth to fulfil this obligation.