KUCHING: The Health Ministry needs to find another mechanism to help the bottom 40 per cent (B40) income group more effectively especially in Sarawak’s rural areas, said Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDSB) information chief William Mangor.
B40 refers to the median household income of at least RM3,000 according to the Household Income And Basic Amenities Survey 2019 research findings from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM).
William said the decision to increase private medical general practitioners (GP) fees might have implications on the B40 group.
He said sometimes during critical or emergency situations, low income earners did not have any choice but to be referred to private clinics or hospitals.
“Most of the time, it is difficult to go to public/government clinics or hospitals due to the long queues and lengthy waiting time.
“However, we understand the GPs who argued that the current consultation fee of between RM10 and RM35 was too low.
“According to media report, it had been stagnant for 27 years,” he said.
William said it was also known that GPs could make other demands instead of increasing the fees, suggesting that they could increase laboratory or medical fees.
He said to make it fair for both sides, the ministry should find another mechanism.
“They can put a time frame before implementing it and broaden the Skim Perlindungan Nasional B40 (MySalam).
“We urge the federal government to make it easier for rural people to register MySalam and introduce it to the middle income (M40) group also.
“For medical and laboratory fees, they can standardise and set the ceiling price,” said William.
Whatever decision made by the government and medical practitioners; William hoped it would not burden the people.
The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Malaysia’s (FPMPAM) honorary secretary Dr G Shanmuganathan had said that the Health Minister had the power to amend the fee schedule of general practitioners (GPs) without going through the Cabinet.
He said this was provided for under Section 107 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act which stated that the minister might from time to time amend the fee schedule by publishing it in the gazette.
“Why the need to go through the Cabinet?” Dr Shanmuganathan asked in a town hall meeting between the Health Minister and GPs on Tuesday.
The consultation fees for GPs working in private hospitals were revised to between RM35 and RM125 in 2013, but not for private GPs’ operating clinics in shops whose fees remained at between RM10 and RM35.
The GP fees, as stated in the 7th Schedule of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services (Private Medical Clinics and Private Dental Clinics) Regulations 2006, had not changed in 27 years.
GPs have been calling for fee harmonisation as provided for in Schedule 13 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services (Private Hospitals and Other Private Healthcare Facilities) Regulations 2006 when it was revised in 2013.
Dr Shanmuganathan said he was disappointed that the matter still had to be referred to the National Cost of Living Council.
On May 9, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the Cabinet did not reject the proposal but it would be discussed at the National Cost of Living Council meeting before being brought up to the Cabinet again.
He said that on April 24, he had handed over a memorandum recommending the amendment to harmonise the fees to the Cabinet.
Dr Dzulkefly said while the Cabinet understood the need and rational for the recommendation, a meeting had suggested that the matter be discussed at the council meeting and subsequently be brought up with the Cabinet again, he said.
At the town hall meeting, Dr Dzulkefly assured the more than 800 GPs that he and his team in the ministry supported their request for the fee harmonisation.
He said the Cabinet felt the issue was the timing as the increase would have an impact on the economy.
However, he said it will be discussed at the council meeting and he will seek Cabinet’s approval.
Dr Dzulkefly admitted that although he can change the fee schedule, as the government is premised on “shared prosperity” and serving marginalised groups, all policies will be subjected to rigorous debate in the Cabinet.
“Although I have the right, this is the way forward for me to get endorsement from the Cabinet.
“They are not saying no but it is a question of timing,” he said.