KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 – Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told private general practitioners (GPs) today to wait for the economy to improve before their decades-old consultation rate could be increased.
Dzulkefly acknowledged that the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998 empowered him as Minister to simply gazette a revision in the 7th fee schedule, which set since 1992 a consultation fee of RM10 to RM35 for GPs operating shop lot clinics, without needing to go through Cabinet.
“Not that the Cabinet is saying no…what they are saying is that it’s a question of timing and I’m very sure we’ll get it done, but the issue is when,” Dzulkefly told a town hall with over 800 GPs in Putrajaya.
“Hopefully when the economy is just picking up, everything has got its time.”
International rating agency Moody’s cut in April its 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for Malaysia to 4.4 per cent from its 4.7 per cent projected last January. Moody’s also decreased the country’s real GDP growth forecast for 2020 to 4.3 per cent from 4.5 per cent.
Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) honorary secretary Dr G. Shanmuganathan said referring the matter of harmonising clinic GPs’ consultation fee with their hospital-based counterparts’ rate of RM35 to RM125 to the National Cost of Living Action Council merely added another layer of bureaucracy.
“This is something for subsidies, not for our fees,” he said at the town hall. “Fees charged under this schedule is not compatible with survival.”
Another GP called Dr Chang Chee Siong questioned why clinic GPs’ consultation fees were not raised for the past 27 years if an economic slowdown was the reason, since the economy was good previously.
“It’s not the worst now. When will it recover? Five years, 10 years, will there be another no salary increment for another five to 10 years, making it a total of 37 years?” he said at the town hall.
“If the economy is bad, will KKM hold its staff’s increment of salary? Will KKM tell the staff we won’t have increment of salary?” he added, referring to the Ministry of Health.
Dzulkefly said in response that clinic GPs should have fought for their fee revision during the years of a booming economy under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
He stressed that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration was only 11 months old.
“But we believe when the economy is picking up, there will be more than willingness of Cabinet to address this. Not because of the economy per se, but the totality of burden on the rakyat for now.”
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye similarly told GPs at the meeting that “once the economy recovers, I suppose it’ll be more plausible for us to implement harmonisation of the 7th fee schedule.”
A GP called Dr Pearl said GPs were paid roughly RM150 in the US, UK, Australia, Europe and Japan, compared to RM10 in Malaysia.
“A blind person can see that RM10 is not adequate or justice for GPs,” she told the town hall.
A Dr Wan Namaziah Zahari from Pasir Puteh, Kelantan, said she had voted for PH in the 2018 election.
“Please do not disappoint us because we won’t vote you again.”
At a press conference after the town hall, Dzulkefly said he would present the proposal to raise clinic GPs’ fees to the National Cost of Living Action Council before the end of the year, since the council meets three times a year.
“From there, we’ll table it in the Cabinet. To me, it’s a matter of time when this can be endorsed. It’s not about yes or no, but when.”