General practitioner (GP) clinics are up in arms over the announcement that the minimum wage of Rm1500 per month will be enforced on businesses with a minimum of five staff members.
GP clinics, especially standalone clinics, are essentially low-income earning businesses, with their consultation fees being capped under the Private Healthcare and Facilities Act.
Their overall charges are also controlled by third party administrators with no avenue for compensation for any increase in operating expenditure caused by the imposition of minimum wages.
Private clinics are not like businesses in other sectors, where price increases can be passed on to the consumers. The health care practice is heavily regulated.
Five staff members might seem to be a lot, but in reality, that is the minimum number of staff members needed by many clinics to continue operating at extended hours to maintain their overhead expenditure, and to derive a reasonable income for the practitioner.
Most clinic assistants employed are untrained workers, and not trained nurses.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) hopes that an engagement can be done with relevant health care stakeholders on the implication of the minimum wages act on GP clinics.
A minimum wage will allow for a higher quality of living, but the provision of quality primary health care at affordable rates for the public is also essential to the maintenance of the health of our nation.
Dr Koh Kar Chai is president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
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