Government urged to set minimum doctors’ fee

KUALA LUMPUR: The government should state a minimum consultation fee to prevent private doctors from undercutting one another, said Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia former president Dr Peter Chan.

These doctors, if they resort to undercutting one another, would compromise their professional fees, he said.

“The Health Ministry should have put out a minimum professional consultation fee charge,” he said.

On Friday, the ministry said that doctors, dentists and specialists in private clinics and hospitals would be allowed to fix their own charges.

The decision was made after general practitioners in standalone clinics 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.

It is not known yet when the new charges based on market forces will start, as the regulations need to be amended first.

Dr Chan said that doctors should focus on providing good quality patient care at reasonable charges, even if there is a monopoly in rural areas.

All medical associations have to come up with an agreed list of charges for different levels of consultation, he said.

However, he believed that these consultation fees would likely remain about the same as current rates because doctors would charge what their patients could afford.

Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice past president Dr Sng Kim Hock said the deregulation of private doctors’ consultation fees would enable them to charge according to the services provided.

The move, he said, would mean that specialists could fix their rates according to the complexity of the case, and services given after office hours.

“It will also allow senior and experienced subspecialists to charge accordingly.

“At the moment, there is no difference in charges when you see any specialist,” he said.

Dr Sng said that compared to other professions such as lawyers or architects, specialists’ consultation fees are low.

Currently, specialists’ fees costs up to RM235 for first consultation and between RM60 to RM105 for subsequent visits.

Singapore has withdrawn its guidelines on fees since April 2007, allowing private doctors to set their own consultation fees.

In November last year, Singapore’s Health Ministry published a benchmark fee structure for common surgical procedures to help patients make better-informed decisions. However, there was none on doctors’ consultation fees.

Similarly, in England and Australia, private practitioners are free to determine their own fees.

While the Australian Medical Association publishes an annual List of Medical Services and Fees, it serves only as a recommendation.

In Japan, medical fees are regulated and reviewed every two years.

Its government controls the prices of all fees in relation to medical services and pharmaceuticals provided at hospitals and clinics.

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