GST: Medical practitioners coaxed to cheat?

Harakahdaily | .

Recently we talked about how the implementation of GST would cause much confusion amongst the people. Hardly had this fact been digested, we hear also just a day prior to the launch of the tax which some people call “giving more money to the regime to do what it pleases” of more grouses about how the implementation of the new tax would be.

This time there have been two letters written by medical practitioners that show how the regime is rushing through the implementation of GST without due regard for the welfare of the people. Now it takes some conscientious professionals like the medical practitioners to voice their worry and concern over the tax.

There was this letter in an English daily on 30 March written by one Dr Amutha from Penang where she lambasts the government for the manner in which GST is to be implemented especially in the health sector more so when just three days earlier the Customs Department tells doctors to ‘embed their GST costs into the consultation fees’ (as reported in the same daily on 27 March under the title “Doctors may add GST cost to fees”).

Dr Amutha says that doctors find this suggestion by the government department misleading to the general public as well as confusing the medical fraternity. She says “First, doctors were told to absorb the GST incurred by them from the cost of medication, equipment and rental. Now, we are to include the GST cost as hidden cost into our consultation”.

Another doctor also in a letter to the paper had this to say: “When the initial announcement was made about GST, there was a lot of confusion over whether there would be GST on healthcare. The Government then assured the public that there would not be GST for healthcare. This was followed by a directive from Customs that private healthcare would be liable to GST; it wasn’t clear who would be paying the tax. Then the Customs’ directive stated that doctors should invoice the hospitals.

Following a meeting between the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) and Customs, this decision was then changed. A directive from Customs stated that patients needed to pay the GST. However, the payment for GST was not to be reflected on the patient’s bill. It should be included in the doctor’s charges. This would not be fair to the patients as they would be paying the GST but it would not be stated on their bills.”

So can everyone see the run-around and the large-scale hoodwinking of the people in this episode of the GST?
What is obviously revolting is the suggestion to ‘embed the GST costs into the consultation fees’. Now if this not asking doctors to cheat their patients we do not know what else it is.

Medical practitioners and the medical fraternity in general abide by a strict code of ethics and professional-client ethics are to be maintained at all times. All budding doctors have to proclaim their “Hippocratic” oath to render ethically their services to their patients, and this includes the question of reasonable charges for their services as well as not hiding extra costs into the medical bill just because someone asked them to do so. The recent (2013) famous case of Susan Lim versus The Singapore Medical Council is a case in point.

So not only has the GST been brought about in a haphazard manner – as evidenced from the series of directives the Customs Dept made to the medical sector , all the while flip-flopping – the doctors have also been coaxed into cheating their patients by including the GST in their bills but not showing this clearly on their invoices or bills. How preposterous and unethical!

No wonder doctors like Amutha have stood up against this kind of demeanour. And Dr Amutha asks an interesting question: “What if the patients take legal action against doctors (especially after seeing their very expensive hospital bill due to this “processing fee”)? She continues, “Who would then be accountable? We doctors would then be labelled as ‘cheats’ and ‘a greedy bunch’.

People like Dr Amutha are the conscience of the nation just like the various public figures who speak out against all forms of wrongdoing in this country. The more Dr Amuthas we have the better for the future of this country.

The rakyat would surely agree that the current regime must go for its sheer incompetence.

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