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Indirect costs’ prevent private hospitals from lowering Covid-19 charges by Annabelle Lee MALAYSIA KINI 23 January 2021

by Datuk Dr Kuljit
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Picture from CNA Online

Indirect costs’ prevent private hospitals from lowering Covid-19 charges

Annabelle Lee

Taking in Covid-19 patients will require private hospitals to employ more staff and create more isolation wards.

While they are prepared to absorb the additional costs incurred, private hospitals contend they are far more ready to accept non-Covid-19 patients from public hospitals.

Speaking to Malaysiakini today, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Dr Kuljit Singh explained that member hospitals were mindful of the “indirect” costs.

“There are a lot of indirect costs that can’t be quantified in treating Covid-19 patients in private hospitals because (when) we have Covid-19 patients, we have to close the entire ward.

“If there is one (Covid-19) patient, the whole ward is closed. That means they are going to lose income for not getting any patients to come into that area.

“We also have to pay a lot of additional staff to be around to take care of the Covid-19 patients,” he said.

While private hospitals are not planning on billing Covid-19 patients for these indirect costs, Kuljit said these expenses prevented hospitals from lowering their charges.

“We can’t further reduce our charges of seeing Covid-19 patients because there are a lot of indirect costs that we are absorbing which is not accounted for,” he said.

“We will do our part to help the Health Ministry (but) we have to do it to our best ability. We can’t do it for free, and we can’t do it at a very low cost because we are built and operated independently. We have to keep our services running.

“But what we need to mention is that the indirect and hidden costs will not be accounted for. That is already a very big sacrifice,” Kuljit stressed.

Yesterday, General Insurance Association of Malaysia (Piam) chairperson Antony Lee urged private hospitals to “step up” to treat Covid-19.

Give us non-Covid patients instead

In light of the indirect costs of treating Covid-19 patients, Kuljit proposed that private hospitals be used to treat non-Covid-19 cases.

This would allow the government to focus on treating Covid-19 in its hospitals.

“Our stand is (for public hospitals) to send us the non-Covid-19 patients so we can clear your hospitals at a faster rate. Then, you can have more capacity in government hospitals to do Covid-19 (treatment).

“Just send us the non-Covid-19 patients. That we can (treat) immediately and we can do it in big numbers,” he said.

The government is engaging private hospitals because public hospitals are strained as severe Covid-19 cases continue to rise. It plans to decanter both non-Covid-19 and Covid-19 patients to private hospitals.

The Health Ministry hopes to implement its integration plan as early as next week, but stakeholders are still hashing out viable payment options for patients.

Insurance policies generally do not cover pandemic-related risks. Insurance firms also argue they know too little about the virus to fully insure against it.

APHM previously urged insurance firms to reconsider their stance and cover Covid-19 patients with medical cards.

Putrajaya recently allocated RM100 million to rope in private hospitals to treat both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.

While they had yet to receive details on how the money will be used, Kuljit opined that RM100 million was “surely not enough” but a good start.

“We can charge patients from government hospitals out of the RM100 million […] we can always negotiate a price, this is not a problem.

“But at least (they can) empty their hospitals so they can do Covid-19 treatments. It is better to have their hospitals as Covid-19 hospitals, so we don’t spread the infection everywhere,” he said.

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