KUALA LUMPUR: Private clinics should be required to display a transparent list of consultation fees to give patients the option before receiving treatment, says a consumer association.

Malaysian Consumer Protection and Welfare Board (LPKPM) president Dr Lee Nan Seng said the move was to protect patients’ rights as consumers allowing them to compare fee rates with other clinics.

“Any sale or purchase transaction must display the price to the customer, the same goes for health services, patients have the right to choose and lodge complaints if a clinic charges unreasonably.

“Although the Health Ministry has abolished the control of consultation fees in private clinics and hospitals, it does not mean doctors can charge high fees and basic charges need to be displayed for referral,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

The Cabinet on Friday agreed to abolish the control of consulting fees under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (Act 586) which, among other things, abolished the control of consultation fees allowing doctors and dentists in the private sector to fix their own consultation fee rate.

Patients can then evaluate and decide beforehand if the consultation fee offered is reasonable.

Lee said the abolition of the consultation fee control, was seen to ease the burden of the lower-income group if the doctor was concerned about the well-being of his patients by charging reasonably.

“However, there are also clinics that may want to impose high charges due to competition between private clinics and intend to make a profit. It really depends on the doctor’s intention whether to help or make a profit,” he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the same matter, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr. N.Ganabaskaran urged doctors not to undercut their professional charges.

He said undercutting will only compromise on professional services and the doctors must emphasis on quality patient-centred care at all times and charge reasonably.

“Free market gives the power to the people to decide on the type of value-based services they would like to have.

MMA has been producing the fee guideline since 1987, which is also a normal practice in many countries as a guide for the practitioners, insurers and Third Party Administrators. This will also help guide the public to know the charges beforehand,” he said in a statement.

He said MMA welcomed the government’s move to deregulate the professional consultation fees which has been regulated since 2013.

“This has been a contentious issue especially for the General Practitioners (GPs), whereby the fee gazetted in the 2006 Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) is based on the fee recommended by MMA in 1992,” he added. — Bernama