After a private hospital went viral for selling 18 pieces of 3-ply face masks for RM201.60, it was issued a compound of RM200,000 by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP). According to the ministry’s statement, the private hospital had committed an offence under Section 11 of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011.
Following the incident, the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) has clarified that private hospitals are not retail outlets. Speaking to the New Straits Times, the association president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said, “What we realised is ministries and the public do not understand how private hospitals are run and how we sustain expenditure and stay afloat.” He added, “We also want to emphasise and explain to the ministry that private hospitals are not retail outlets. We are healthcare service providers.”
Dr Kuljit is calling for a meeting with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi to explain the structure of private hospitals in terms of revenue generation and sustainability. According to the New Straits Times, he declined to answer whether this meant that hospitals are not bound by the rules under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act of 2011.
When asked if the affected private hospital would settle the RM200,000 compound, he said the association wasn’t involved in the matter and they will leave it to the hospital to respond to the ministry.
The private hospital has to settle the compound in the stipulated time or else they will be charged in court. The penalty for the offence under Section 18 of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 is a fine of not more than RM500,000 and if found guilty for the subsequent offence, offenders will be fined not exceeding RM1,000,000.
According to the ministry, they are serious in ensuring face masks are obtainable at a price that doesn’t exceed the maximum pricing of RM1.50 per piece. The public is urged to report any suspicious activities through its official channels including the e-Aduan portal.
Last week, the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) had criticised KPDNHEP for not taking immediate action. This was after the ministry said it was waiting for an explanation from the hospital after the story went viral. The association said the ministry had acted ruthlessly on several pharmacies without giving them the opportunity to explain. They urged the ministry not to practice double standard and to act fairly against all offenders whether it is a privately owned pharmacy or a conglomerate owned private hospital.