Among the many things that Singapore is known for is its healthcare system. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its 2000 World Health Report placed Singapore in the 6th place on its ranking of health systems across the globe. The country’s healthcare system is characterized as an efficient and widespread one. The government places a premium on its healthcare program and ensures affordable access via subsidies and compulsory savings. The Ministry of Health, which is primarily in charge with policies relating to healthcare in the country, also safeguards the good quality of medical services available in the country by ensuring that all medical health institutions and providers are at par with high levels of standards that it imposes.
History and Overview
One of Singapore’s main funding sources for its healthcare systems is Medisave. Introduced in 1984, Medisave is national medical savings account which allows Singaporeans to save a part of their incomes, in the form of compulsory deductions, into a fund which they can use to offset future hospital bills. Other medical savings programs which Singaporeans can avail of are Medifund and Medishield.
The government of Singapore also pours in a significant amount of its budget into the country’s healthcare system for subsidies to its citizens. The subsidies are in place to assist citizens with regard to their healthcare needs across all levels and also to prevent abuse as there are effectively no free services when it comes to medical care. The government shoulders only up to certain percentage and the citizen pay for the rest. Although it does not directly control the costs of healthcare, the government enacts policies to regulate to a certain extent the prices of medical services
Aside from state-sponsored medical services, there are also a number of private healthcare institutions who cater to those who can afford them. These private institutions also cater to the medical needs of foreign citizens currently travelling to, working, or even residing in the country.
Today, the healthcare system of Singapore is considered as one of the best in the world with its good ratios of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, vis-à-vis its population. It has been internationally recognized as an efficient system which, although difficult to copy and recreate by other countries, has for the most part been proven as successful.
The Ministry of Healthcare
The Ministry of Healthcare is the government body charged with the responsibility of handling the healthcare service system of the country, including health awareness, accessibility of services, and the quality of healthcare services in the country. It also takes an active role in preventing and controlling diseases in the country whenever necessary. The Ministry is also in charge of regulating the healthcare providers in the country. All hospitals and other providers must be licensed by the Ministry and should maintain a good standard with regard to the delivery of medical services.
The Ministry’s mission is to promote good health and reduce illness, ensure access to good and affordable healthcare, and pursue medical excellence. They have 3 main strategies employed to achieve this goal, namely: promoting good health and reducing illness, ensuring access to good and affordable healthcare, and pursuing medical excellence. Its philosophy is to ensure quality and affordable basic medical services for all. Presently, it is headed by the Minister of Health, Gan Kim Yong.
One of the more recognized health institutions in Singapore locally and abroad is the Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Established in 1844 as the Chinese Paupers’ Hospital, it is now named after one of its first and biggest benefactors, and has been certified by many international accrediting bodies like the ISO and the OHAS for its commitment to the health of its patients and the vast range and excellent quality of healthcare services that it offers to the public.
Today, the hospital takes pride in its pioneering programs in Geriatrics Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, and Infectious Diseases, among its many other specializations. It was even designated by the Ministry of Health in 2003 as the hospital for the testing and treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in the advent of the outbreak of the disease in the region.
Singapore also places a premium in the mental health of its citizens. It is the home the Institute of Mental Health, one of the premier medical institutions geared toward taking care of an individual’s mental health. The Institute is one of the oldest mental health care institutions. It was established in 1841 and was known then as The Insane Hospital.
Today, it is known worldwide for its high class services and accommodations, including 50 wards and 2010 beds. It received, in 2005, the Joint Commission International Accreditation, making it the first institution in Asia to receive this accreditation. In 2011, it won the Grand Award for the Hospital of the Year, at the Asian Hospital Management Awards which recognizes Asian hospitals who employ the best practices with regard to the medical care of their patients.
Some other recognized hospitals are:
- Singapore General Hospital
- Changi General Hospital
- National University Hospital
- Alexandra Hospital
- KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- National Cancer Centre Singapore
Generally, Singapore’s healthcare system has received worldwide acclaim. It was even ranked by Bloomberg as the most efficient healthcare system in 2014. This should not come as a surprise as around 80% of Singaporean citizens depend on the public health system when it comes to their medical needs because of the many policies in place that provides them easy and affordable access to healthcare.
Foreigners in Singapore, however, do not have subsidized or privileged access to healthcare. This can pose a problem as medical bills can reach high amounts at certain times. They can, however, individually enroll themselves in a private health insurance program to ensure coverage in times of need. Another option is to let employers enroll their non-covered employees en masse with a certain insurance program for centralized collection of premiums and easier remittance of the proceeds. Securing a coverage would prove to be vital as hospital charges can go to the thousands at times without the subsidies and it is much easier to have an insurance provider to cover these unexpected charges.