PATIENTS will now be able to see just how much it costs to have an operation at public hospitals, after the Ministry of Health (MOH) put details of the fees up on its website yesterday.
The total operation fees, which sum up how much surgeons, anaesthetists and facilities cost for 65 common procedures in public hospitals, are available online. The procedures listed include appendix removal surgery, bone marrow biopsy and cataract surgery.
The aim is to provide "additional transparency", help patients make informed decisions and allow market forces to work more efficiently, said the MOH in a statement.
The published fees provide a further breakdown of a total hospital bill size, which the ministry has been publishing for 80 common conditions, in public and private sector hospitals.
In the past, a person planning to undergo surgery for the removal of tonsils would know, for example, that he would have to pay a total hospital bill of about $1,000 at the National University Hospital for subsidised day surgery, according to the 50th percentile data. Fees vary by hospital and class, among others.
The revised format would tell the patient he is paying between $532 and $924 for just the cost of performing the surgery. If the patient is unsubsidised, the website tells him that he has to pay between $2,719 and $3,521.
MOH did not provide a more detailed breakdown of the fees or the data by individual hospitals and ward classes.
The data published by the ministry on its website is based on actual recent hospital bills. These figures will be updated annually.
Dr Phua Kai Hong, a health economist at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the data helps shed light on the different charges and can serve as a benchmark for the private sector.
He said: "But don't expect patients to compare prices and shop around. Health care is consumed in a different way - patients depend on word of mouth and on doctors advising them based on diagnostic data."
The Parkway Pantai group, which manages four private hospitals here, was the first healthcare operator to introduce a total estimated bill size, comprising doctor fees and hospital charges for patients, for 30 operations last October.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said patients still ultimately look at total hospital bill size. He believes the new data is "just one piece" in a push for greater transparency for medical and hospital charges.
MOH is working with the Singapore Medical Council and Singapore Medical Association on this.
Said Dr Chia: "It's a good step... as a majority of Singaporeans go to our public hospitals for surgeries and procedures."
The new information can be viewed at www.moh.gov.sg/totaloperationfees
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