Rope in private healthcare, says MMA

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the government to collaborate with private healthcare providers in its fight against Covid-19 in order to ease the strain on the public healthcare sector.

Its president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said this is also to help the survival of the private healthcare sector as many are struggling to stay afloat with fewer patients since the start of the movement control order in March.

“Many clinics and hospitals nationwide are reporting reduced patient attendance, some by 70% to 80%, with significant income reduction and sustainability of their practice severely threatened, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Subramaniam cited lockdown rules and affordability as the reasons why patients delay or avoid visiting private clinics or hospitals.

He said many senior doctors are also contemplating closing their healthcare facilities, or retirement, with an estimated 200 clinics nationwide expected to close down by year end.

He noted that a recent survey conducted by MMA’s Sabah branch revealed that with the conditional MCO implemented in October, 70% of private general practitioners and specialists have a reduced patient load of over 50%.

“A total of 32% reported the need to close clinics temporarily for various reasons, with one of the main reasons being the need to quarantine due to Covid-19 exposure, ” he said.

Should the current situation in Sabah continue, Dr Subramanian said, 17% of practitioners estimated they will not be able to sustain business in the next three months, with 33% stating that they can only continue for the next six months.

“Only 25% in the survey estimated that they can be sustainable for 12 months or more, ” he added.

He also noted that only 14% of doctors surveyed said they are providing Covid-19 tests.

Dr Subramanian proposed that public collaboration and healthcare should be strengthened in government and private sectors to address the issue.

He also urged the government to support the private healthcare sector by providing tax exemptions and grants to ensure the continuity of primary care in the sector as well as outsourcing of services.

“Services that can be outsourced include follow-up of patients with non-communicable diseases or antenatal care by general practitioner or elective operations by private specialists at an agreed sustainable rate, ” he said.

Dr Subramanian believes that the cost effectiveness of outsourcing services and stimulus investments in private healthcare will also help expand the people’s access to healthcare.

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