KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) says general practitioners (GPs) in standalone clinics will still charge low-income B40 patients affordable fees, even if rates were raised.
He said this in the wake of attempts by GPs to increase their fees by harmonising their rates with those of medical doctors in private hospitals.
MMA president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim (pic) said although the harmonisation of the fee schedule would increase current consultation fees by between RM10 and RM35 to the new range of RM30-RM125, GPs would still have to adhere to a fee structure.
Under the RM30 to RM125 fee structure, RM30-RM50 may be charged for simple consultation (up to 10 minutes), RM51 to RM80 for intermediate consultation (up to 20 minutes) and RM81 to RM125 for complex consultation (more than 20 minutes).
"The harmonisation will be crucial to the sustainability of clinics nationwide and will also help address the issues GPs are facing with third party administrators (TPAs)," he said in a statement on Thursday (June 13).
Dr Mohamed Namazie claimed there were corporations that were willing to pay the high fees in private hospitals but would stinge on GP fees, and that the government had been delaying the harmonisation even though the Health Ministry agreed that it was necessary.
"GPs in the country have been subsidising the healthcare of large and profitable corporations which have engaged the TPAs.
"These TPAs suppress the GP fees to make a profit for themselves. Several foreign TPAs have come in to feed upon this lucrative business.
"One TPA that was owned by Khazanah (Nasional Bhd) has now been sold to a foreign investor," he claimed.
He said GPs in Malaysia were only asking for the harmonisation and gazetting of the consultation fee that was agreed upon in 2013.
The consultation fee was gazetted for medical officers working in private hospitals under Schedule 13, but was overlooked for GPs working in private clinics under Schedule 7 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services (Private Medical Clinics and Private Dental Clinics) Regulations 2006, he said.
"The increase was already done and the impact has already been discounted," he said.
The current fees of RM10 to RM35 for GPs in private clinics have not been revised since 1992, he said.
"Medical officers at private hospitals who have the same qualifications as GPs based in shoplot clinics, have been charging between RM30 to RM125 per consultation, while GPs at shoplot clinics are issuing receipts for consultation fees of 27 years ago," he said.
Dr Mohamed Namazie said easy accessibility, overcrowding at hospitals, shorter waiting time and lower fees were reasons why most people would prefer to go to a clinic for health checks or treatment of minor health issues.
However, the current fee schedule is making it almost impossible for GPs to continue operating their clinics.
"Last year alone, over 300 clinics in the country closed down," he said.