KUCHING: The government’s landmark decision to deregulate private medical practitioners’ consultation fees is yet another bold step in the commitment to patient-centred healthcare reforms. 

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said, “This decision will significantly change the landscape of Malaysian healthcare.

“It means that people, for the first time in decades, will be able to exercise their power of choice to pick and benefit from healthy competition, especially among private clinics.”

He added that among the many implications, the decision will motivate and help support doctors and dentists, particularly those just starting their own private practice, to provide better value, professionalism and higher quality of care in order to stand out from their peers.

“This move will encourage and create conditions ripe for investments in innovation, such as digital health, which will improve the quality of healthcare services and treatment.

“In the long run, it could help control the escalating cost of healthcare,” he said.

Such decision gives back power to the public to decide on the type, quality and value of services they would like to have or not have.

Studies have shown that Malaysian patients are willing to pay if the quality of health services is good and the prices are fair.

Azrul pointed out, “Undoubtedly, there will be some pain and inconvenience at the onset.

“Private health practitioners, who have had their rates frozen for 27 years, have to adjust to ensure that they are able to continue to pay salaries, buy equipment and medicines, and keep the lights on.

“After all, private clinics are small businesses. In many clinics, we expect the consultancy fees to go up, depending on their location and level of complexity in the consultations.”

However, once deregulation is implemented, private healthcare practitioners, including those who are hospital-based, will be tasked with the responsibility to ensure that their rates are affordable, realistic and fair.

Consumers will not hesitate to punish those who seek to make unreasonable profit, exploit or provide sub-par healthcare to patients.