The Suffering Family Medical Practitioner — Dr Sng Kim Hock

The Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia says the RM35 cap on GPs/ family doctors’ consultation fee is at par or lower than plumber or electrician fees, and cheaper than a beautician or hair salon visit, forcing clinics to close.

The plight of general/ family medical practitioners in Malaysia needs urgent attention, as it has been “ignored” for over the past decade or more. 

The recent forum on September 16, 2023 organised by Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations, Malaysia, and attended by other medical bodies, highlighted the seriousness of Third Party Administrators’ (Managed Care Organisations/ MCOs) quasi regulations that have severely restricted the good medical practice of family practitioners, hence affecting good quality primary medical care to the patient. 

This has now been conveyed to the Prime Minister through a memorandum signed and supported by 13 medical practitioner groups.

The misconception among the public is that all doctors are doing very well, especially with the recent Covid-19 pandemic. What is perhaps not known is the ridiculously low consultation fees imposed by these MCOs, down to as low as RM15 to RM20, with a take-it-or-leave-it approach.

The present Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act limits the fee for the family practitioner to a mere RM35, well below all other professions in private practice, and certainly lower than a visit to a hair salon or beautician, and now at par or lower than the plumber or electrician.

Such a low consultation fee is equivalent to that of the 1960s and 1970s. It has resulted in hundreds of family practitioners closing down. 

To make matters worse, some MCOs have imposed the rule that medications be taken from another source, whittling the family practitioner’s income to a meagre RM15 in some situations.

While the doctor has charity ingrained in his or her heart, through the years of vigorous training, it is sheer common sense that the family practitioner cannot survive with such a fee schedule and restriction, often imposed unilaterally by MCOs.

The suffering practitioner has no means to address this issue; some just close shop. 

When laws and rules are applied to provide affordable care to the patient, the care provider must be considered; hence, to limit the fee for a doctor’s consultation to a mere RM15 to RM35 is absurd and not tenable for any medical practice today.

The buck stops at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Minister.

Dr Sng Kim Hock is from the Executive Committee of the Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia (ASPMPM).

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