GPs go ‘on strike’ for higher consultation fees

PETALING JAYA: Several general practitioners are planning to go “on strike” tomorrow in protest against consultation fees which they say have been stagnant for 27 years.

Health Ministry staff have confirmed with FMT that the town hall meeting with Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad will be held at Putrajaya at 2pm.

The doctors’ dissatisfaction is with a Cabinet decision not to review the consultation fees of RM10 to RM35 charged by private doctors. They seek parity with the rate of RM35 to RM125 charged by hospital doctors, which is pending a review by a government council.

The “strike” by the private doctors will consist of their private clinics being closed for the day while they attend the town hall meeting. The doctors will not engage a “locum” or temporary doctor as would be done usually to fill vacancies or a doctor’s absence.

Notices calling for clinics to close tomorrow in a show of unity have been circulating on social media.

An article at the website of CodeBlue, an editorially independent programme of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, quoted Dr Yek Sing Chee of Ipoh as saying he had notified his patients weeks ago about the closure.

He plans to go to the town hall meeting with a “bus load” of other GPs from Ipoh who are similarly closing their clinics.

“We will have to voice our dissatisfaction at unfair treatment by the health ministry, particularly to general practitioners,” Yek was quoted as saying.

The website also quoted Dr Tan Poh Teng from Alor Setar, Kedah, as saying he would close his clinic tomorrow to protest against GPs’ loss of income from the low consultation fee. However, he was not planning to attend the town hall meeting.

Tan was quoted as saying that salaries of clinic assistants have tripled over 20 years, from RM300 to RM1,200 a month, besides other overhead costs such as indemnity insurance and disposal of clinical waste.

Dr Pearl Leong, who has been running a clinic at Sri Hartamas here for more than 15 years, said she would be closing her clinic to attend Dzulkefly’s town hall meeting.

It was pointless getting a locum, she said. “I close, I get complaints. I get locum, I get complaints. I might as well save the money,” Leong was quoted as saying.

She questioned why Dzulkefly had decided to organise a town hall meeting on a weekday during working hours instead of on a Sunday afternoon.

Dr Shanmugamnathan, who operates a clinic at ParkRoyal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, said prices of medicines have skyrocketed, staff salaries have gone up, and rent increased every year, but GPs’ consultation fees remained the same.