No price hike for Covid-19 treatment at private hospitals

Hospitals do not have the prerogative to raise admission charges and direct deposits solely due to shifting demands

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BLOOMBERG

THERE is no price increase for Covid-19 treatment at private hospitals, particularly in the Klang Valley, although the recent rise in new cases has piled more pressure on the country’s healthcare system.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said hospitals do not have the prerogative to raise admission charges and direct deposits solely due to shifting demands.

He said the cost for Covid-19 patients with pneumonia (an infection that inflames the lungs’ air sacs) is almost the same as non-Covid patients, save for a little extra cost for personal protective equipment for staff.

“It’s very difficult to determine the average cost for Covid-19 treatment because it is based on each hospital’s structure and capacity.

But the price will not be so different between private hospitals. Only the patients will know the cost.

“Different hospitals will have different mechanisms. It depends on how many patients they can accommodate in the intensive care unit (ICU) and in normal wards. Not all doctors can treat Covid-19,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Private hospitals have been admitting Covid-19 patients since January after a surge in new cases left the government scrambling for more beds and medical staff in managing the pandemic, particularly for those who can afford treatment.

Private hospitals provide beds and expertise based on their respective capacity and capability, with thousands of patients having been treated up until today.

Dr Kuljit said all private hospitals are transparent in giving the cost estimation, depending on the level of care needed and the number of hospitalised days, to let the patient decide whether to proceed with treatment.

“However, most private hospitals in the Klang Valley are not able to accept any more Covid-19 patients as the wards allocated to treat these cases are full.

“Private hospitals are constrained on the number of beds and ICU facilities that can accommodate Covid-19 patients, and the availability of specialists and nurses, which further compounds the restriction,” he added.

A general survey by TMR found the treatment cost per day for a non-critical Covid-19 case at Sunway Medical Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, is between RM1,500 and RM2,500 with a deposit of RM10,000 to RM20,000.

“The treatment cost for ICU is different depending on the patient’s critical treatment needs. For now, we can only accept 25 Covid-19 patients including in ICU. We have 50 patients on the waiting list,” according to a Sunway Medical Centre spokesperson.

Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) has also reached full capacity at the moment. However, the hospital does not have a waiting list.

The cost per day and deposit at SJMC depend on the level of illness, with levels ranging from mild to moderate, followed by serious to critical.

“The admission rate for mild cases is at RM2,000 per day with a deposit between RM10,000 and RM20,000. For moderate Covid-19 cases, the charge is RM4,000 per day with a RM15,000 deposit. For seriously ill patients, who require treatment at ICU facilities, the charge is between RM6,000 and RM8,000 a day with a deposit of RM30,000.

“For critical patients, the charge is RM12,000 per day with a RM50,000 deposit,” an SJMC spokesperson said. Other private hospitals declined to comment on their rates when contacted by TMR.

In a statement yesterday, APHM expressed its hopes that doctors in government hospitals would refer their non-Covid-19 patients to private hospitals for elective surgeries and procedures without further delay.

This was in response to an updated circular by the Ministry of Health allowing government hospitals to outsource services to private hospitals to treat non-Covid patients, in order to create more treatment space for Covid-19 patients in public hospitals.

Private hospitals in this country have the capacity to assist in managing non-Covid-19 patients effectively, allowing public hospitals to focus on treating Covid-19 cases.

“Treatment of non-Covid-19 patients in private hospitals will be funded by the government based on the circular, but patients can only be referred by their treating doctors in the public hospitals to private based on the condition of the ailment,” Dr Kuljit noted in the statement.

He added that the take up was not satisfactory as only a small number of referrals have been made.

Dr Kuljit noted that there were 31 private hospitals in the Klang Valley currently managing Covid-19 patients in normal wards, as well as in the ICU.