PUTRAJAYA: Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad today assured more than 800 general practitioners (GPs) who attended a heated town hall meeting that he will fight for a hike in consultation fees which have been stagnant for the past 27 years.
Dzulkefly said he would present a report to the National Cost of Living Action Council (Naccol) chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail soon.
“The next time around there will be victory regarding this,” he told the doctors.
The GPs who attended the town hall meeting were on “strike”, having closed their private clinics for the day to attend the session.
They did not engage “locums” or temporary doctors, as is usually done, to take over when they are on leave or off-duty.
The doctors’ dissatisfaction is over a Cabinet decision not to review consultation fees of RM10 to RM35 charged by private doctors. They seek parity with the rate of RM35 to RM125 charged by hospital doctors.
Dzulkefly said the GPs should have pushed for a fee revision when the economy was booming previously.
“I must say I fought gallantly (in the Cabinet). It was a collective decision that as and when the economy picks up we can increase the fees,” he told the doctors during the session lasting more than four hours.
Malaysian Medical Practioners Coalition Association member Dr Peter Chan said GPs were being over-regulated, so much so that even their consultation fees were regulated.
“We can only charge RM10 to RM35. If we are not allowed to sell medicines, we will not survive,” he said, referring to proposals during the BN government to only allow GPs to consult patients and write drug prescriptions for patients to buy from pharmacies.
A doctor from the crowd told Dzulkefly that while consultation fees remained the same, rental and staff salaries had gone up.
Another doctor said the power to approve an increase in consultation fees was in the hands of the minister.
“It has nothing to do with cost of living. The minister can from time to time amend the fee schedule. Why go to the Cabinet? Why have another layer of bureaucracy?” he asked.
Dzulkefly said he was aware of his powers but that was not how the Pakatan Harapan government worked, adding that he had to go through Nacco and then the Cabinet.
The minister later told reporters he was pushing for higher consultation fees not because he felt pressured by the medical sector.
“This is their right. We are not playing politics. Their fees should be reviewed,” he said, adding that he would propose a hike that would be reasonable.
Dzulkefly said GPs would be allowed to sell drugs to patients until a proper National Health Financing Scheme was implemented.
He also clarified that drug prices would be controlled through a global ceiling price reference index so that there was a minimum and a maximum ceiling and space for a slight mark-up of prices.