RISING COST: 'It will add to people's burden'
KUALA LUMPUR: The proposal that pharmacists charge a professional fee for medical advice has triggered an outcry from consumer associations.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selva Raj said consultation by pharmacists is part of the service when people buy medicine from them.
"It is a different issue if it is an independent advice, otherwise there should not be any charges.
"Consumers are already buying the medicine from them, so why the additional fee?"
The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) recently proposed to the government to allow its members to impose a professional fee when providing pharmaceutical care.
Its president Datuk Nancy Ho said this following an announcement by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai that doctors' and specialists' fees in the private sector are likely to see a 14 per cent hike.
Selva Raj said the government must review the suggestion and consider the welfare of the community as such charges are going to contribute to the rising cost of health-care.
"There should be consultation with stakeholders as this rising cost is going to make healthcare expensive."
On MPS' argument that some customers were abusing the existing privilege when they sought advice from pharmacists in one place and purchase the medication elsewhere, Selva Raj said a blanket fee that affected everyone because of rare individual abuse of the system was not necessary.
National Consumer Protection and Welfare Board president Datuk Seri Dr Saharuddin Awang Yahya said the proposal would burden consumers, especially those from the low-income group.
"Proposals to increase healthcare cost are not a good idea.
"Healthcare is a necessity to the consumers and this is going to add to their burden."
Network administrator J. Jeyan, 31, said if the nominal fee is to recognise the pharmacists' time and knowledge, it will be more viable to increase their salaries rather than impose the charges on consumers.
Medical student M. Hemela said diagnosis for easily administered conditions such as common cold and allergies should not be charged.
"For more severe conditions such as diabetes mellitus or heart failure that need a very detailed education to the patient on the way of administration, the side effects and the danger signs, I feel it is appropriate to charge."
However, some people agree to the nominal fees proposed by MPS.
Zarina Abdul, 46, said she would not mind paying the fees because it is cheaper than going to the clinics and hospitals.
"If we are willing to pay the doctors for consultation fees, why not pay the pharmacists for their professional advice?" she asked.
S. Sharveena, 24, said pharmacists deserve to be compensated as they are also professionals like doctors.
"A lot of them are able to give constructive advice. I don't see why they should not be paid for their services."