Monday, March 25

Proposed consultation fee hike will hurt lower income group — Covas


KUCHING: The Consumers Voice Association Sarawak (Covas) has stated its objection to the proposed revision to increase the consultation fee of private clinic doctors or general practitioners.

Its chairman Michael Tiong said yesterday Covas’ stand is in view of the current economic climate, coupled with rising unemployment and other factors that contribute to the deterioration and holding up of spending power, especially among the lower income group.

“The Ministry of Health on Monday announced the move to increase such fees from RM10 and RM35, to about RM35 and RM125. Such increase would mean an increase of 250 per cent and 257 per cent respectively.

“Mathematically, try to use this increased percentage to measure and calculate the percentage on how much would the lower income group have to spend from their scarce income, and the impact of it on the rest of their spending structure,” he said.

He said Covas is not against the proposed increment, but wants to know the main justification factors for the move, and whether or not a feasibility study is being carried out and chronicled properly for the proposed implementation.

He said the public is being kept in the dark over what led to the move, particularly when the federal government has been working hard to reduce the cost of living.

“Is it because of the abolishment of GST which has led to an increase in spending power due to lower prices, of which medical practitioners would like to take advantage of? Must the public be at the sole mercy of the proposed increase initiated by the medical association and the related government departments?

“We appreciate the announcement in advance of the proposed implementation but Covas feels that it cannot be rushed,” he said.

Tiong added more studies and surveys need to be carried out rather than just “a few rounds of meetings” among stakeholders, as such a move will affect millions of consumers especially from the lower income group.

He said feedback gathered in Sarawak showed the proposed fee revision will hurt those staying in rural or remote areas, as it will add on to their already high travel cost to get to a clinic.

“As for businesses and companies with panel doctors, they would also see an increase in costs which, in the long-term, may result in some withdrawing the benefit for their employees, depending on their respective company policy and state of the economy,” he said.