Family doctors charge varying fees from patients depending on a range of factors, including the ability of the patient to pay.

Doctors who spoke to The Hindu said that the current charges were not enough to meet their cost of living.

Now, the Family Doctors Association is encouraging its members to charge a minimum of Rs. 50 as consultation fees, apart from the cost (maximum retail price) of the drugs, says G.K. Bhat Sankavithilu, President, Family Doctors Association, which has 100 registered members, all from within the corporation limits.

“The current charges are not at all enough. It is not sufficient. A doctor needs at least Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 30,000 to live in Mangalore,” he says.

According to Dr. Bhat, 75 per cent of family physicians in Mangalore charge Rs. 50 as consulting charges and the patients are not complaining. Some patients promise to pay later. “I know that they will return to pay. But I have a problem with well-off patients who say that the fee is high,” he says. A general practitioner in Mangalore gets 30 to 50 patients each day. Some doctors who charge Rs. 20 get 100 patients a day, he says.

Dr. Kailashnath Shetty charges depending on the patients and on what tablets he has to be given, and sometimes, it is as low as Rs. 20. However, he is thinking of increasing the fee by Rs. 5 to make both ends meet.

Does it mean then that doctors should become specialists and not stop with MBBS? Says Dr. Bhat: “I do not support the idea that MBBS is not enough. General practice is good. A general practitioner is capable of treating all cases except surgical cases. For treating malaria and typhoid, MBBS is sufficient.” Those who wish to pursue higher studies, and get higher marks may pursue MD or MS. “Not that they earn more,” he says. Their salary can be Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 apart from which they require a practice that can keep them going. To reach this level, it takes five to 10 years.

“Definitely there is scope for increasing the charges, considering the prevailing circumstances,” says a medical practitioner with an experience of more than three decades. He charges Rs. 50 as consultation fee, which goes up to Rs. 70 to Rs. 100 for well-off patients. He says charging the patient depends on several factors, including the individual doctor, his years of practice, the risk he takes, and the kind of case and the type of patient.

Says Dr. Bhat: “Money is not the motive but service is.”

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