‘Hike in GP consultation fees must not burden the poor’

William Mangor

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KUCHING, June 12: The Health Ministry needs to come up with a policy to ensure those in the B40 (lower income) group, especially rural folk, continue to have access to affordable healthcare services.

Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) information chief William Mangor said this in response to the federal government’s plan to increase the consultation fees of general practitioners (GPs) by harmonising with that of medical doctors in private hospitals.

“The decision to increase private medical general practitioners (GP) fees will have implications on the B40 group,” William said in a press statement today.

“Many a time in critical and emergency situations, lower-income families do not have any choice but to seek treatment at private clinics or hospitals.”

William shared that rural people also faced many challenges in getting public healthcare, such as having to travel long distances and limited health care providers.

However, he noted that 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.

The consultation fees for GPs working in private hospitals was revised from RM35 to RM125 in 2013 but not for private GPs operating clinics from shop lots — their fees have remained between RM10 and RM35.

“We understand the GPs have the right to demand for an increase in fees, which has remained stagnant for 27 years, but considering the difficulties and hardships of the B40 group, the Health Ministry needs to find another mechanism to protect the lower income group while the GPs can increase their fees,” he said.

In urging Putrajaya to set a timeframe before hiking the fees, William also suggested making it easier for rural people to register for the MySalam initiative and to include the middle income (M40) group in this national health insurance scheme.

“As for medical and laboratory fees, they can standardise and put a ceiling price on it.

“But whatever decisions made by the government and medical practitioners, we hope it will not burden our people,” he urged.

According to the Malay Mail, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said yesterday that his ministry would present the proposed fee hike to the National Cost of Living Action Council (NACCOL) during its upcoming meeting, the date of which has yet to be determined.

Addressing the grouses of GPs that the consultation fees had not been increased for almost three decades, Dr Dzulkefly said the Cabinet had not dismissed the proposal to hike the fees but had suggested that the matter be presented to the action council beforehand.

“We are still discussing the actual impact, especially on the B40 group, but we are looking at anything higher than the current fee,” he said, adding that the review on the proposed fee had to be presented to the action council due to the current economic status of the country. — DayakDaily