KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — General practitioners (GPs), dentists, and specialists in private clinics and hospitals will be free to set their own consultation fees after Cabinet decided to deregulate them.
Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) landmark decision to deregulate private medical practitioners’ consultation fees came 13 years after they were legislated in 2006 under fee schedules in Schedule 7 (for private medical and dental clinics) and Schedule 13 (for private hospitals) of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998.
Private clinic GPs’ consultation fees have been capped in the 2006 regulation at a 1992 rate of RM10 to RM35, sparking widespread dissatisfaction among some 7,000 GPs in the country who demanded that their rates be harmonised with their hospital-based counterparts, whose consultation fees were increased in 2013 to RM30 to RM125.
“The abolition of controls of consultation fees is a move to strengthen the people’s power of choice,” Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in a statement today.
He added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is committed to bringing positive changes as well as stimulating growth in the health care sector in the country.
He also said that the abolition of medical practitioners’ consultation fee regulations would serve to encourage private physicians and dentists to better their skills, professionalism and service to their patients at their respective facilities, as well as speed up the rate of services provided in the private health sector.
Dzulkefly said MOH will be taking the necessary steps to realise this decision, adding that town hall sessions will be carried out to explain the matter to various parties.
He also said the ministry would now look into detail at a few new rules, while strengthening existing rules to ensure that more transparent and patient-friendly services are provided, but did not elaborate further.
“Among others, the consultation fees must be clearly advertised so that patients (are able to) take note of the consultation fees before getting treatment,” Dzulkefly added.
Patients who are unsatisfied with the consultation fees or services at any private health facility can make complaints to the Private Medical Practice Control Section (CKAPS) of MOH’s Medical Practice Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under Schedule 7 of the PHFSA, private clinic dentists’ consultation fees are capped at RM25 to RM250. Under Schedule 13, private hospital specialists’ consultation fees are legislated at a rate of RM80 to RM235.
Dzulkefly’s announcement today came after MOH unsuccessfully tried to push amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 to require doctors, dentists, and vets to issue medicine prescriptions requested by patients, proposing incarceration and fines for non-compliance.
Dispensing separation is not practiced in Malaysia as GPs rarely issue prescriptions for patients to buy drugs at a separate pharmacy. Instead, doctors usually dispense the same medicines that they prescribe amid stagnant consultation fees.