6 November 2020
FOMCA is extremely disappointed that the Poisons (Amendment) Bill 2019 that would enhance patients’ protection has been withdrawn. It appear that the government is not concerned to increase patient protection or patient welfare.
Previous governments had to some extent protected patients by regulating how much doctors could charge patients, as healthcare is a right not a commodity.
However, the previous health minister decided to eliminate the price ceilings and thus there are no price controls of how much patients can be charged. Doctors could charge as they please. Patients lost their protection. Thus the protection provided by setting a ceiling on consultation charges was removed – patient’s rights were trampled.
In addition, one of the promises made was that while doctors could charge as they pleased, with no price ceiling, they would be transparent in their patient charges, clearly indicating the breakdown of charges for consultation and for each of the medicines prescribed. Each patient would then know exactly how much he is being charged for both consultation and for each medicine that he has been given.
With transparency in medication costs, the patient could then make a choice on whether he wanted to purchase from the clinic or a pharmacy. For convenience, many may choose to buy from the clinic; while other more cost conscious consumers may choose to compare prices to get the best value for money.
However, the key has to be that they are made aware of the price of each of the medicines being given. They need not have to ask for the price. It is the consumers’ right to know how much he/she is paying for any product or service that he needs to pay for.
It is interesting to note that medicines, essential for consumer wellbeing, is not covered by the Consumer Protection Act, where price information is mandatory and sellers can be charged for not displaying the prices. While it may not be practical to display the prices of medicines at the clinic, at the very least at the point of payment, the consumer/patient should be given that information clearly. That is his right.
Currently the practice is just to lump all the charges – consultation and all the medicines into a single charge. Consumers have no means to ascertain if they are getting the best deal or being overcharged.
The amendment to the bill would to some extent ensured that protection. The withdrawal of the bill for the third time is deeply disappointing. Patients’ rights have been trampled again.
It appears that in the healthcare industry, patients do not have basic rights and the government is not interested in protecting patient’s rights.
DATO' PAUL SELVARAJ
CEO of Federation of Malaysians Consumers Associations (FOMCA)