The economic slowdown is biting hard even in the medical profession, causing keen competition in government clinics, with private practitioners also scrambling to get a share of overtime payments.
Several government clinics are now operating much longer, up to 9.30pm daily, with doctors manning them paid RM80 an hour in overtime payments.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who acknowledged the keen competition going on between government and private doctors for overtime payments, said:
“Many doctors, irrespective of whether they are in the government or private sector, are very keen to earn extra income these days.”
Liow said that to cater to the increasing number of patients seeking treatment at government clinics, the number of clinics providing outpatient treatment would be increased from 16 to 31 soon.
Besides these clinics, he said 59 hospitals were also providing similar treatment after office hours.
Patients pay RM1 each for outpatient treatment at government clinics, which record more than 50 million such visits annually.
With private practitioners charging at least RM15 per visit and with the economic slowdown causing people to tighten their belts, more and more patients are heading to government clinics.
“With more people seeking treatment at government clinics, opening up more such clinics between 5pm and 9.30pm will make it more accessible, especially for those who are working,’’ Liow said in an interview.
The minister said he had received feedback from private doctors on poor business in their clinics due to the economic slowdown.
On allegations that government doctors were being favoured over private practitioners to work overtime in the government clinics, he said:
“The faster approval for government doctors could be due to the fact that their credentials are readily available for checking.”
“As for the private doctors, it may take longer to verify them,’’ he said, adding that all doctors applied for the overtime online.