Doctor fees could go up for second time in two yearsIn February 2021 the Nepal Medical Association had almost doubled the fees.
Health services at private centres are set to get more expensive from May 15.
The organisations of both medical doctors and private health institutions have mutually agreed to increase their consultation fees.
Growing inflation is the main reason behind the fee hike, the Nepal Medical Association (NMA), the umbrella organisation of medical doctors, and the Association of Private Health Institutions of Nepal, an umbrella organisation of private hospitals, said in a joint statement.
The Health Ministry used to increase consultation fees on the recommendation of an expert panel, which included representatives of the NMA, the Nepal Medical Council, which is the national regulatory body of medical doctors, the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights and officials at the ministry.
However, during the Covid pandemic a little over two years ago, the then state minister for health and population Umesh Shrestha allowed the doctors’ associations to increase consultation fees on their own every two years.
Speaking to the Post, some doctors argued that no one in the country objected when the barbers’ union increased the price of haircuts and so the doctors’ association too has the right to increase their fees.
Several incumbent and former office bearers of the Nepal Medical Association the Post spoke to, however, said that they are unaware of the decision to increase doctors’ consultation fees.
“The decision might have been taken at a meeting of a few office bearers of the two organisations in the interest of doctors serving at private hospitals and private health institutions,” an office bearer of the association told the Post, requesting anonymity. “Most of the incumbent office bearers of the association work at private centres and they took the decision in their own favour.”
Some other officials say the decision to hike consultation fee was taken without due process.
“I am unaware of the decision to increase doctors’ fees,” said Dr Prakash Budhathoky, vice president of the NMA. “Such a decision has to be made and approved by an executive board meeting of our association, which has not happened so far.”
When asked about the decision, Health Ministry officials said that they cannot interfere in the decision of the doctors’ association.
“We cannot do anything about the NMA’s decision,” said Dr Roshan Pokhrel, secretary at the health ministry. “Did the Ministry of Home Affairs take action when the barbers’ union increased their service charges?”
Pokhrel conceded that the Health Ministry had given permission to the doctors’ association to increase their consultation fees.
As per the new list of charges to be implemented from May 15, doctors with a degree of DM/MCH (Doctor of Medicine/Master of Surgery) and more than five years of experience can charge up to Rs940 from Rs850 earlier and Rs450 before February 2021.
Likewise, doctors having DM/MCh with five or more years of experience can charge Rs880 from previous Rs770. Those having MD/MS/MCh with five years of experience can charge between Rs750 to Rs800, up from Rs660 earlier.
Doctors with a diploma and five years of experience or more can charge Rs590 to Rs670, which was Rs515 earlier.
An MBBS/BDS doctor with five or more years of experience can charge Rs420 to Rs550, from Rs370 earlier.
Health facilities, where doctors run their practices, add up to 20 percent to the doctors’ fees.
Many patients visiting private hospitals complain about having to wait for hours at the doctor’s clinic and not getting enough attention from the doctors. The doctors spend only a couple of minutes with the patients, they say, despite paying comparatively higher doctors’ fees at private clinics.
Officials at the NMA said that those seeking private care should be ready to pay a premium for the services.
“The message of the price hike is that healthcare services at state-run health facilities should be made more effective,” said Budhathoky, vice-president of the association.
Consumer rights activists said it is illegal for doctors’ associations to raise consultation fees.
“Why do we need a government if it cannot regulate the market and stop unfair practices, and instead allows service providers to charge whatever they want?” said Jyoti Baniya, chairman of the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights. “What can we say when doctors increase consultation fees on their own at a time when the prime minister himself has taken charge of the health ministry? This decision could not have been taken without the consent of the prime minister and the health secretary.”