The story of the hospital in Kuala Lumpur that overcharged a patient for 18 pieces of 3-ply face masks used by the nurses there recently went viral. The hospital allegedly charged RM11.20 (US$2.57) for each mask (RM201.60 ($46.27) in total), which is almost 10 times higher than the government’s ceiling price of RM1.50 ($0.34) per face mask.
Responding to the incident, President of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) Dr Kuljit Singh insisted that the entire private healthcare industry in Malaysia is actually ‘struggling to keep afloat’ as its profit margin is only around seven to eight per cent at the moment – information, he says, that is available for the public to read online.
Private hospitals are therefore being forced to set high prices as their healthcare costs are not being subsidised by the government. He explained: “Healthcare is costly, but government hospitals provide services which the public generally get for free. Malaysian public healthcare is one of the best in the world, but if people want to go to private hospitals, there is a price to pay as it is not subsidised by anyone.”
The hospital in question was found to have committed an offence under Section 11 of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, which states: “Any person who sells or offers to sell any price-controlled goods or provides or offers to provide any charge-controlled services or who collects deposits otherwise than in accordance with the prices or charges determined by the controller commits an offence.”
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry has since issued a RM200,000 ($45,902.10) compound to the hospital, which the organisation insists the facility must pay by 28 May or face court charges.
Dr Singh has announced that he is seeking a meeting with Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi to explain the structure of private hospitals in Malaysia in terms of revenue generation and sustainability. “What we realised is ministries and the public do not understand how private hospitals are run and how we sustain expenditure and stay afloat,” he told the New Sunday Times. “We also want to emphasise and explain to the ministry that private hospitals are not retail outlets. We are healthcare service providers.”