KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors and dentists in private clinics and hospitals can soon fix their own consultation fees following a decision by the Cabinet to allow the charges to be dictated by free market.
The move to deregulate the fee structure would enhance the public’s right to choose their doctors, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
He said the consultation fees must be displayed clearly so that patients are aware of the fees before getting treatment.
“If patients are not happy with the charges or services received in any of the private facilities, they can lodge a complaint with the Private Medical Practice Control Section at email@example.com.
“With the control of consultation fees abolished, doctors can now determine their own consultation fee rates, ” he said.
GPs in standalone clinics have complained that the current fees of RM10 to RM35 have not been revised since 1992, while doctors at private hospitals who have the same qualifications have been charging between RM30 and RM125 per consultation.
After much protest from doctors, Dzulkefly said on May 9 that the matter would be discussed at the National Cost of Living Council meeting before being brought up in the Cabinet again.
In a statement yesterday, he explained that the Cabinet had assessed the matter comprehensively as well as taken into consideration the recommendations from the council.
He said the Cabinet was concerned about the need to amend the Seventh Schedule of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services (Private Medical Clinics and Private Dental Clinics) Regulations 2006, which had not been amended since it was enforced in 2006.
The fees for GPs and dentists, as stated in the Seventh Schedule, have not changed in almost three decades.
Doctors have been calling for a fee harmonisation as provided for in the 13th Schedule of the regulations when it was revised in 2013.
In 2013, the consultation fee was gazetted for medical officers working in private hospitals under the 13th Schedule, but was overlooked for GPs and dentists working in private clinics under the Seventh Schedule.
With this latest Cabinet decision, Dzulkefly said the measure was seen as a mechanism that would motivate the GPs and dentists to improve on their skills, professionalism and quality of service.
“It is also hoped that it will motivate the private health services sector.”
Dzulkefly said the ministry would hold sessions to explain the matter to various groups.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), in an immediate response, hailed the government’s decision as a “bold” move.
Its president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said the private practitioners fees, which have been regulated since 2013, had become a contentious issue, especially for the GPs, because the fee gazetted in the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act in 2006 was based on the fee recommended by MMA in 1992.
“Free market gives the power to the public to decide on the type of value based services they would like to have, ” he said in a statement.
He urged doctors not to undercut with their professional charges.
“Undercutting will only compromise on professional services.
“Doctors must emphasise on quality patient centred care at all times and charge reasonably, ” he said.