Death knell for GPs and emergence of micro-specialists — John Teo

MAY 3 — April 24 marked an important day for the healthcare landscape in Malaysia for it was the day the Malaysian Cabinet turned down the request for general practitioner's (GP) fees harmonisation after 27 years of static GP fees.

Your friendly neighbourhood GPs who have been providing daily healthcare for decades to generations of Malaysian families at very reasonable and accessible costs have been surviving all this while on low fees that have never been adjusted over a quarter of century with cross profits from drug sales.

In so doing, many Malaysians are able to see them easily, quickly and at affordable costs. Despite these, many GPs are increasingly finding survival tough and many are struggling or on the verge of closing down.

The final nail on the coffin was, of course, with the stroke of a pen, the Cabinet approved the drug price control to be implemented soon.

This signals the start of the possible annihilation of GP practice in this country with no way to adsorb the rising costs of operating clinics.

A cup of coffee in the kopitiam 27 years ago costs 50 cents and today it is two ringgit, representing a 400 per cent increase. Yet GP consultation fees have a zero per cent increase! Maybe GPs don't need to drink coffee perhaps.

It is my prediction that GP practice will slowly and surely disappear one by one aided and coaxed to its natural death with the ever increasing and strangulating regulations that the government is hell bent on implementing. That's the only aspect that there is true political will power to act on.

In place of family GPs will be the nutritionist GPs specialising in nutrition, the supplementionist GPs specialising in supplements and product distribution, the beauty GPs specialising in beauty and fashion, etc, etc!

Fewer and fewer doctors will want to be family GPs, the bedrock of family health and primary care and many doctors will clamour for specialisations and supersubspecialisations as suggested by one CEO of a large private hospital recently.

What does this all mean to the average Malaysian? Well, it means that if you have a cough and cold or a bout of diarrhoea, you may have to go to the government health clinic and wait for hours and be seen for only a few minutes because the government health clinics are overburdened with hundreds of patients per day OR wait in the casualty room of the hospital the whole day or of course, consult Dr Google and self medicate.

Alternatively you may want to go to private facilities with specialists and supersubspecialists and end up with multiple investigations and procedures because there are simply NO GPs available to screen you and refer you to the appropriate specialist or NOT at all as it can be treated with simple medication.

I shudder to think of how healthcare will be in the very near future and the government of the day knowingly or unknowingly dealt the final blow leading to the eventual total elimination of decades of GP practice in this country.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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