KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — A government council on cost of living has decided to allow clinic general practitioners (GPs) lower consultation fees than their hospital counterparts’ RM30 to RM125 rate, Dzulkefly Ahmad said today.
The health minister told Parliament that the National Cost of Living Action Council (NACCOL) also decided last August 1 that a financial impact study be first conducted on any hike of private clinic GPs’ consultation fees that have stagnated at RM10 to RM35 since 1992. There are some 7,000 private family physicians in Malaysia; most family doctors, or GPs, are based in clinics, not hospitals.
“Following the Cabinet’s decision, the suggested amendment was tabled at the National Cost of Living Action Council (NACCOL) on August 1 2019 and it was decided that the proposed rate of private GPs’ consultation fees at RM30 to RM125 be reduced a little to a more reasonable rate, and for impact studies to be conducted on this increase.
“I will table this matter at the Cabinet once a decision has been made by NACCOL,” Dzulkefly said in response to Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, who had asked about the status of clinic GPs’ application for their consultation fees to be harmonised with their hospital counterparts’ rates.
The health minister added that NACCOL will meet again next month, after the Cabinet first pushed the issue on raising GP fees to NACCOL last April 24.
Dr Noor Azmi, who’s also a GP, questioned why clinic GPs’ consultation fees were not simultaneously raised in 2013 under Schedule 7 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, when hospital GPs’ consultation rates were increased to RM30 to RM125 under Schedule 13 of the law that year.
“In leaving these fees for 27 years, has the Health Ministry acted with fairness and consideration towards GPs, the gatekeepers of our health care?”Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Bagan Serai MP
Dzulkefly replied that Pakatan Harapan (PH) was not yet in power in 2013.
“This increase is given to them, but the rate of the increase must be studied carefully so that we can understand the impact on the consumers’ price index,” he said.
The minister asked for more time to conduct financial impact studies on raising clinic GPs’ consultation fees to RM30 to RM125.
When Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff from PAS pointed out that many private clinics in urban areas have been forced to close because of rising operational costs, Dzulkefly highlighted the participation of private clinics in the ministry’s Peka B40 health screening programme.
“I want to strengthen primary care, private clinics, value-based health care or increasing value for patients, and also our health clinics under the Ministry of Health,” said Dzulkefly.
“The combination of both will play a gatekeeping role to prevent non-communicable diseases like diabetes and high cholesterol. I’m certain that private clinics together with government clinics can produce the best outcome in promotive and predictive health care.”
Family doctors have warned PH that the solo GP practice will eventually die if their fees remain stagnant, especially in the face of impending regulations controlling the price of medicines, which they say is their main source of income.