Increase in consultation fees at polyclinics

Increase in consultation fees at polyclinics
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A visit to the neighbourhood polyclinic now costs more as operators have raised consultation fees, with one doing so as recently as this month.

Singaporean adults pay up to $11.90 for a basic consultation, while children and non-pioneer generation seniors are charged a maximum of $6.80.

This is on top of what they would be charged for medication, laboratory tests and so on.

Neither SingHealth nor the National Healthcare Group (NHG) - which together run all of Singapore's 18 polyclinics - was willing to disclose exactly by how much fees have increased.

However, The Straits Times obtained data showing that last October, a basic consultation for adult Singaporeans cost between $11 and $11.30. Children and seniors paid between $6.10 and $6.40.

The fee hike for permanent residents and foreigners is steeper, with both groups paying up to $1.60 and $2.90 more respectively.

The NHG said it raised fees in April, with SingHealth following suit earlier this month.

When The Straits Times visited one polyclinic from each group, no signs were seen to indicate that consultation fees had gone up.

Both polyclinic operators said the higher fees were a reflection of increased operating costs.

"We revised our fees to manage rising operating costs such as utilities, infrastructure, equipment upgrades and inflation," said Mr David Kok, director of finance at NHG Polyclinics.

However, the operators also assured patients that prices would remain affordable and no one would be turned away if he could not pay the bill.

"We are committed to ensuring that the total bill continues to be affordable for our patients," said SingHealth Polyclinics chief operating officer Luna Lee. "Our fees remain heavily subsidised for Singapore citizens, especially the elderly."

Most people, like 20-year-old Ahmad Noorfahmy Mohamad Salleh, felt that the increased prices were not too steep. "I guess if there are improvements in service and we know why we are paying, it's worth it," said Mr Noorfahmy, who visits a polyclinic several times a year. "Compared with regular general practitioners, polyclinics are already very much cheaper."

But some felt that patients should have been informed of the change in prices.

"It's not too expensive for me," said cleaner Jamila Yusuff, 54, who visited Outram Polyclinic on Tuesday and noticed the fee increase only when she checked her bill.

"But some seniors will ask, 'Why is the medicine the same but I'm paying more?' "

This article was first published on July 9, 2015.
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