PETALING JAYA | Private hospitals and clinics have seen a drop of almost 70% in patients, as fewer people seem to fall ill as a result of Covid-19 preventive measures, while those who need treatment prefer to visit government clinics because of the low costs.

Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, said with more people staying home, the likelihood of catching the common cold or flu is lower.

“Children are staying at home, the same with adults working from home. The infection rate will go lower,” he told FMT. People are also washing their hands more often, wearing a mask, and practising physical distancing due to Covid-19.

The drop in the number of patients was also a result of border closures, which left medical tourism almost at a standstill, said Kuljit. Medical tourism generated RM1.5 billion in revenue in 2018 from 1.2 million healthcare travellers, and it grew 17% from 2015 to 2018.

As private hospitals were now under-utilised, Kuljit urged Putrajaya to allow the hospitals to treat non-communicable diseases.

“There are a lot of non-Covid-19 and non-complicated cases waiting to be treated. The government has the fee structure which they can work out with the private hospitals,” he said.

Kuljit added that the patients could be referred from the government hospitals and their fee paid by the government. “This way, the long list of patients can be reduced.”

Former Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ravindran Naidu said private clinics were badly hit as more people were being made redundant from their jobs, adding they prefered to queue up at government clinics which offer lower admission fees and overall costs.

“(Private) clinics have experienced a 70% to 80% drop (in patients),” he said.

Ravindran proposed for a private-public partnership with the government to treat diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in private clinics. “They can disperse them to general practitioners in rural (areas) and cities,” he added.

Consumer activist Jacob George said the concept of private-public partnership could only work if private hospitals were willing to cut their surgery and treatment costs. “The prices are too high.”

Jacob, who is also president of the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, told FMT that private participation would benefit consumers but their charges were way too high.

“If they want to join in, they must bring down their cost as part of community service responsibility (CSR) during the pandemic,” he said.

© FMT News