It’s not a business

KUALA LUMPUR:Healthcare should not be equated with a business,  director-general of Health Tan SriDrMohd Ismail Merican told private hospitals and doctors yesterday.

“Looking at profits solely, theway other businesses do,may not be ethically or morally justifiable. Profitsmademust be reasonable, and not excessive.”

Private hospitals and doctors, he said,must be responsible when charging patients for services rendered.

Dr Ismail made the call following public complaints over unreasonable charges by private hospitals, as highlighted in the media recently.

He said charges by hospitals must be acceptable without compromising the
patients’ safety and quality of care.

“Most of the complaints centre on the lack of information provided to patients by the hospital authorities or healthcare providers at the outset of the treatment. Communication is crucial to keep patients informed of the
estimated and unanticipated charges, prior to the initiation of care or treatment.”

Patients, he added, had the right to be informed as this might help in averting future misunderstandings and misconceptions.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said recently that patients had the option of seeking treatment from government hospitals and clinics or private ones, but they must be fully aware of the cost implications should they decide to go to private healthcare facilities.

Dr Ismail said healthcare providers, especially doctors, should abide by the
code of professional conduct and impose reasonable charges, providing a full explanation to patients should the charges be considered high.

He also called on all private healthcare providers to put in place grievance mechanisms to address all complaints by patients, including those related to unreasonable charges.

All managed care organisations (MCOs), meanwhile, were reminded to register with the Health Ministry and play their part in monitoring the reimbursement
process without interfering with the clinical decisions of doctors.

Dr Ismail said the ministry would hold a follow-up meeting with MCOs to get a better understanding of the charges imposed on patients and the unhappiness expressed by doctors over what they perceive as interference in their practice.

“We would like all private healthcare providers to comply with the Fee Schedule and all requirements stipulated under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (Act 586) and its regulations. The doctors’ professional fees are being reviewed and the new rates are expected to be further deliberated by the middle of next year.”

He warned that action would be taken against those violating the laws.

Following the public complaints on unreasonable charges by private hospitals, a meeting was held on Nov 29 between the ministry, the Association of Private Hospitals, Malaysia and the National Heart Institute.

Issues deliberated included charges by private hospitals and doctors, ethics, patient safety and quality of healthcare.

Dr Ismail, who chaired the meeting, said it was agreed that charges by private hospitals were higher compared with that in government hospitals, and this was understandable given the government subsidy and hidden costs.

“It was also felt that healthcare costs in Malaysia are relatively lower and of
acceptable quality compared with neighbouring countries.”

Representatives from private hospitals said they had to operate as a business entity because they were responsible for all expenses, including those related to the land, building, utilities and facilities for patients, and also answerable to the shareholders who have
invested substantially.

Credit : The New Straits Times

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