KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 – The government may restructure consultation fees for private general practitioners (GPs) after Parliament approves the Health White Paper, Health director-general Dr Radzi Abu Hassan said today.
Dr Radzi was reportedly commenting on a suggestion by Dr Kanthan Murugiah, the representative of the private practitioners’ section in the Penang chapter of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), who had suggested at the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) town hall meeting on the Health White Paper in George Town, Penang, earlier today for a review of GP fees.
“First, we need to pass the Health White Paper,” Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted the Health DG as telling reporters after the town hall.
“(Then) the issue of the fees and how (the restructuring) will be implemented could come later.”
The Health White Paper is not a piece of legislation, but simply a document proposing health reforms over the next 15 years that Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has promised to table in the Dewan Rakyat in June.
FMT quoted Dr Kanthan as saying that GPs can only charge a maximum of RM80, despite the high cost of operating their clinics.
“This is a non-viable situation and something has to be done about it,” he said.
“One reason why the GPs have not gone ‘extinct’ is that they also dispense medications. So there is a little bit of something to make there, and they are surviving from that. (Whether) it is ethical or not, this is the fact.”
Under Schedule 7 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998, private clinic GPs and dentists’ consultation fees are capped at RM10 to RM35, and RM25 to RM250 respectively. Under Schedule 13, private hospital specialists’ consultation fees are legislated at a rate of RM80 to RM235.
Private clinic GPs, which number about 7,000 in Malaysia, have long called for their consultation fees to be raised to RM30 to RM125, equivalent to the rates of their counterparts working in private hospitals.
In December 2019, the Cabinet under the then-Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration decided to deregulate private medical practitioners’ consultation fees.
Then-Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is currently Kuala Selangor MP with PH under the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, had said the Ministry of Health (MOH) would take the necessary steps to implement the Cabinet decision.
Given MMA’s intervention at MOH’s town hall today, it appears that the deregulation of private clinic GPs’ consultation fees was never put into effect.
In Malaysia, unlike many other countries with dispensing separation, doctors are allowed to also dispense the medications that they prescribe.