KUCHING: The move to increase private hospitals’ general practitioners consultation fees in the current situation does not go down well with several politicians in Sarawak.
They said the increase, particularly now, is too drastic, not justified and warrants a review.
For Minister of Public Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, increasing the fees at this juncture is not justified as it would further burden the people.
“They (the people) are already facing several raises of other essentials that caused more hardship especially amongst the working group and urban people. The federal government must be sensitive towards their predicaments,” said the Kemena assemblyman and a Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) strongman.
United People’s Party (UPP) secretary-general George Lo is of the view that the increase is too drastic, adding the minimum fee should be maintained at RM10 to give doctors the latitude to charge less in deserving cases.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) planned to increase the consultation fees from RM10-RM35 to RM35-RM125 depending on the complexity of the case before the private hospitals’ general practitioners.
To this, Lo said the maximum fee can be increased but not to RM125 which is even higher than current specialist consultation charges.
“A more reasonable maximum would be in the region of RM60 which is below standard specialist charges.
“Given the current economic situation in Malaysia, it is not justified to have such sudden massive increase even though we must take into account that there has been no increase for more than 10 years,” Lo stressed.
State Reform Party Sarawak (STAR) called for a standstill on private doctors consultation fees.
“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” said STAR president Lina Soo.
She said Sarawak with a rural and low density population suffers from poor healthcare if it exists at all.
The most recent announcement by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government through the Ministry of Health (MoH) to propose higher consultation fees at private clinics is rubbing more salt into the festering wound.
“To increase consultation fees from RM10-RM35 to RM35-RM125 will only burden the poor people of Sarawak who can ill afford to fall sick,” she pointed out.
Claiming that she was shocked by the news of fee increment Soo said she was even more shocked when the government announced the abolishment of the RM1 charge at government hospitals.
If it is going to be replaced by the health insurance scheme, Soo wanted the government to clarify how the insurance scheme will be implemented and on who is going to pay for it and how will Sarawak farmers for instance who live hand-to-mouth be able to pay for it.
On the platform where the move to increase private doctors consultation fees was announced, Soo queried how the town hall session was conducted and who were the stakeholders present.
“Were there any Sarawakian, NGO or Sarawak government representative to speak up for the rural poor of Sarawak who already suffer from lack of healthcare due to poverty?” she asked.
Sarawak had high hopes on the PH government in improving the livelihood of Sarawakians and to care about the welfare of the poor.
“But instead we have been hit by whammy after whammy just on healthcare alone. The 1Malaysia clinics which have served the people well apparently would be scrapped as well,” she claimed.
“Just completed 100 days of government, the Malaysia Baru government has proven itself adept at thinking up new ways to impoverish the needy and marginalised in Sarawak,” she said with a tone of sarcasm.
“Being poor is not a choice. The government may consider to cap the ceiling price at RM125, but should stay the minimum charge at RM10. I do not see any poor doctors around with the current minimum consultation charge of RM10 since 2006.
“It is the government’s duty to ensure that healthcare is affordable for our people. Please do not fix what is not broken,” she said.
On another note, Soo urged the federal government to terminate the Tabung Harapan because it teaches the government it can get money without having to work for it, and the government can do without this ‘tongkat’ (crutches) as an easy way out.
“The Malaysia Baru government must seriously get down to work on managing and expanding our economy to improve the lives of our people, and stop indulging in daily theatrics and drama to entertain the people. Enough is enough,” she stressed.