KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Physicians justified charging RM80 for a new extensive medical exam for commercial drivers, after Transport Minister Anthony Loke criticised clinics for charging that ceiling fee.
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia (MPCAM) said the new medical check-up required for vocational driving licence applications, which came into effect October 1, could take up to 45 minutes in some complicated cases, three times as long as a 15-minute examination under the previous format.
But the doctors’ group pointed out that private general practitioner (GP) clinics charged RM80 for both medical tests.
The Road Transport Department’s (JPJ) L8A form for the new medical exam for both fresh applications and licence renewals runs into eight pages, plus one page for certification of fitness. Under the previous format, the medical exam for fresh applications were four sheets long, including guidance for the form, and only one sheet for annual renewal.
The vocational driving licence comprises the goods driving licence (GDL) to drive any commercial vehicles that transport goods, like lorries, as well as the public service vehicle (PSV) licence to transport paying passengers, like taxis, buses, and now, ride-hailing drivers.
“I think Anthony Loke must apologise for putting clinics in bad light,” MPCAM president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah told CodeBlue today.
“Previously with four pages, doctors charged RM80 and for renewal one page, we charged RM30. Now for eight pages, we are charging RM80 and he says we are being unfair.”
Loke told a press conference yesterday that JPJ would remove the RM80 ceiling fee provision from its L8A form, accusing clinics of taking advantage by charging commercial drivers the maximum regulated price for medical exams.
“When the form states RM80, the health clinics take advantage of this. All of them charge RM80 even though previously, some charged RM30 and some charged RM40,” Loke said.
He also told drivers not to blame JPJ for the RM80 fee, saying that this was under the Health Ministry’s purview.
“It has nothing to do with us,” Loke said. “But in the JPJ L8A form, we will create a new form without the RM80 ceiling fee because many clinics have abused and taken advantage of it.”
Dr Raj Kumar said the RM80 ceiling fee was set after JPJ consulted the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), another doctors’ group.
“If you want a proper assessment, it comes with an unavoidable cost. This extensive assessment will see many long-time drivers lose jobs.”
He pointed out that vocational driving licence applications under the new medical check-up will not be approved if applicants’ visual acuity exceeds 6/12 in at least one eye, of if they can’t hear a whisper.
“Easy for drivers to fail,” Dr Raj Kumar said.
“If he has hypertension, heart disease or diabetes, he needs to go back to a specialist to get himself checked and get a clean bill of health before he can be approved. I’m not sure how fast this approval can be got with the referral and running around by the driver.”
Apart from certain conditions for passing the medical exam, like visual acuity and hearing ability stated in the form, Dr Raj Kumar said it’s up to the doctor’s discretion to certify a commercial driver’s fitness.
The old four-page medical exam form sighted by CodeBlue contained a urine test and mostly yes/ no answers to questions on vision, mental health, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, deafness, and stroke, among others.
But the new eight-page form has several questions on vision, hearing, a blood test for diabetic patients, as well as extensive questions on snoring, a sleepiness scale, neurology and musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and respiratory conditions.
MMA secretary-general Dr R. Arasu tweeted that the ceiling fee for medical exams conducted by GPs under Schedule 7 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) is actually RM200.
Purported complaints from lorry drivers about the cost of the new medical exam, which they personally bear, have surfaced on WhatsApp.
A lorry driver from Selangor named Muhammad Hafiz Lela told CodeBlue that an image of his RM80 medical test receipt at a clinic in Banting, which has been going around on WhatsApp, was not connected to an audio recording of a man alleging that lorry drivers could not get their driving licence if they had heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
“How can lorry drivers make a living? Become robbers?” said the unidentified man. “Let’s get lorry associations to boycott the government…do a strike.”
Muhammad Hafiz said he did not have any health problems, and that he previously only paid RM10 or RM15 for yearly medical tests to renew his vocational driving licence.
“The price increase is too steep, from RM10 to RM80. The problem is, some people are saying that you can’t get a licence if you have certain diseases. What about my other friends who are ill? Their source of income is from driving lorries.”