PETALING JAYA: The protracted Covid-19 pandemic has not spared professions once deemed financially lucrative and secure.
Law firms and even medical doctors in the private sector are experiencing financial difficulties, especially since the conditional movement control order (MCO) was reimposed in certain parts of the country.
Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia president Dr Steven KW Chow said many senior private practitioners have decided to shutter their businesses and retire.
“The general trend is that patient volume has fallen. It was slowly picking up until the reimposition of the conditional MCO recently.
“This has affected both the independent general practitioners and specialists and even those working in private hospitals, ” he said.
When asked the reason, he said many members of the public were not keen to go to clinics for fear of being exposed to Covid-19.
“This is despite the fact that clinics with proper standard operating procedure (SOP) is not the source of infections.
“We are advising our members on re-strategising and re-looking their practice model.
“We hope the government will look at ways of lessening the regulatory burden imposed on registered private medical clinics instead of increasing regulatory requirements.
“There should be a lower tax rate for essential services like clinics, which must stay open to serve the public despite the MCO, ” he said.
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah estimated that private clinics have seen a drop of about 80% in business since the beginning of the MCO in March.
“After the MCO was lifted, it gradually returned to almost normal, but now with the conditional MCO, we are again seeing a dip in business.
“It could be because patients are afraid to come to clinics, as we are seeing many flu and fever cases so they are probably afraid they would get infected by Covid-19, ” he said, adding that roadblocks were also a hindrance to clinic patients.
He estimated that about 10% to 20% of clinics have closed down nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the Health Ministry in 2018, there were 7,718 private medical clinics nationwide.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said that this was one of the “toughest periods” that legal practitioners, and the nation as a whole, have had to face.
“The impact of the pandemic on our economy means that law firms have had to face shortage of work in particular areas, and this has adversely affected the financial preparedness of many practitioners, especially those in small firms.
“In recent weeks, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya have once again been put under conditional MCO which has caused the courts to close for several weeks.
“This resulted in firms losing revenue as well, ” he said.
He added that the Malaysian Bar had conducted a survey among the legal fraternity during the MCO in April, and found that 96% of 844 respondents at that time did not see themselves making it past October.
“We had a fraction of respondents (8.1%) who were contemplating ceasing practice altogether, and 13.2% of them considered closing their practices, ” he said.
But as the survey was conducted during the MCO, the outlook may have been more pessimistic than expected, he said.
“One of the main challenges faced by members is the loss or reduction in income and disruption to their normal operations.
“Things improved after the initial MCO was lifted, but as the legal profession is deeply intertwined with other sectors of the economy, business is not entirely back to normal for many members, ” he said.
He proposed that the government extend the loan moratorium and for the allocation of special grants to help law firms cover their operating expenses.
“Additionally, we would like the government to allocate funds in the Budget for the National Legal Aid Foundation which provides legal assistance to individuals accused of crimes.
“We also hope that the government can provide incentives for law firms to encourage the adoption or upgrading of IT infrastructure, ” he said, adding that there are 8,501 law firms nationwide.
Senior lawyer Datuk Roger Tan said many lawyers have found it difficult and that retrenchments in law firms have taken place.
“Lawyers are finding it tough and are facing economic woes, especially as income has reduced substantially but overheads must still be met.
“A law firm is just like an SME. We need help too, ” he said, adding that the government’s wage subsidy has helped law firms so far.
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