KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Private general practitioners (GPs) have complained about government bureaucracy preventing them from administering Covid-19 vaccines, amid overcrowding at a mega vaccination centre (PPV) in Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said out of the 2,500 GP clinics registered with ProtectHealth Corporation (PHCorp), more than 1,800 have attended PHCorp’s mandatory training, but only 184 are currently conducting Covid-19 vaccination. This comprises only about 7 per cent of the 2,500 GP clinics registered with PHCorp, the fully-owned company by the Ministry of Health (MOH) managing private medical practitioners in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).
There are some 8,000 GP clinics nationwide as of last December.
“The bottleneck that MMA was informed is at the state JKJAV (Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply) which is tasked on the vaccination.
“Some state JKJAV has ‘instructed’ their officers to audit the clinics before allowing,” MMA honorary general secretary Dr R. Arasu said in a letter to GPs Sunday.
He told CodeBlue that he has been informed so far that it is the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and Selangor JKJAV so far that have been mandating these audits. The JKJAV — which is the federal government committee in charge of PICK — comprises both MOH and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
Dr Arasu claimed that the audits were ordered by the state JKJAV, telling CodeBlue: “CKAPS MOH has nothing to do with this”. CKAPS is MOH’s Private Medical Practice Control Section that regulates private medical practice.
According to the MMA general secretary, more than 750 GP clinics in Selangor have registered to administer Covid-19 vaccines under PICK, of which at least 200 have been trained by PHCorp. In Kuala Lumpur, more than 350 private clinics have registered with PICK, of which at least 100 have been trained by PHCorp.
Dr Arasu, a GP himself, also said the 2,500 GPs who have registered with PHCorp to run PICK are well distributed across the country.
The family doctor explained that only less than a third of the 8,000 GPs nationwide have signed up to participate in the national coronavirus inoculation drive due to a “confusing” implementation process, saying: “With more clarity, more GPs will participate.”
In a recent letter, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow called for more PPV to be set up across public and private health clinics and hospitals — which are well distributed throughout the community and near people’s homes — instead of a limited number of “super sport-style” mass vaccination sites located hours from where people live.
Dr Chow also said it was unnecessary for MOH’s CKAPS to inspect and approve GP clinics for Covid-19 vaccination, as private clinics are registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA).
Malaysians posted last Saturday videos and photos of massive queues outside the World Trade Centre (WTC) PPV in Kuala Lumpur, the largest Covid-19 vaccination site in Malaysia with a capacity of about 8,000 daily shots to the arm. The crowds at the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccination centre in the city centre emerged amid a surging Covid-19 epidemic in the country.
In May 22 and May 24 letters to directors of the state health departments of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, and Selangor respectively, Dr Arasu said private medical practitioners have experience in administering other vaccines besides the coronavirus shot.
“MMA takes note that the audits are meant to ensure compliance by clinics. However, this will be one of the causes of delay in achieving herd immunity in our country,” Dr Arasu said in his letters, as sighted by CodeBlue.
“In line with that, MMA wishes to recommend that the audits be conducted during the running of the programme.”
As of May 28, about 3.7 per cent and 16.5 per cent of the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur total populations respectively have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The national vaccine coverage rate was 5.4 per cent.
PICK Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told a press conference last Sunday that Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has issued instructions, through a May 25 circular by the Health secretary-general, that CKAPS will no longer conduct pre-approval visits to private clinics before listing them as PPVs. Health authorities will only monitor GP clinics throughout their Covid-19 inoculation drive.
“With this, I hope that all state health department directors will simplify not just GPs’ involvement as PPVs, but all private PPVs — GP clinics, specialist clinics, private hospitals, and private ambulatory care centres,” said Khairy, who is the MOSTI minister.
“Even though we perceive vaccination as a routine GP job, but for Covid-19 vaccination, it’s rather different from other vaccinations, in terms of cold storage. Therefore, even though we want to involve as many GPs as possible, they need onboarding training with PHCorp, which is a very, very simple and brief onboarding process.”
Khairy estimated 500 GP clinics to start providing Covid-19 vaccination from June 15, besides projecting 1,000 PPVs at GP clinics before June 30.
“If we take the private sector as a whole that is involved in PICK, I target GP clinics’ PPV and also private hospitals’ PPV to administer 40,000 daily doses before June 30. This is our target for private PPVs, subject to vaccine supply.”
Private health care facilities currently administering Covid-19 jabs are doing so as part of the government programme, not their own separate private vaccine rollout. The public will receive their shots for free, while the government pays private facilities a nominal sum for administration costs. Government supply of Covid-19 vaccines is delivered to these private facilities through government vaccine storage sites.
“We have increased supply from June onwards. By opening up more PPVs — Klang Valley, Penang, Johor Baru, and nationwide — we’ll go to other states and see where we can open up PPVs, using private GP clinics that are located nationwide and also private private hospitals. I believe our vaccination rate will increase exponentially in the coming weeks,” said Khairy.
According to the minister, five new mega PPVs will be opened in the Klang Valley from June 7. Three mega PPVs will be set up in Selangor at the Mines International Exhibition and Convention Centre, UiTM Puncak Alam, and Setia City Convention Centre, as well as two in Kuala Lumpur at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Bukit Jalil National Stadium. More mega PPVs are planned in Penang and Johor.