Challenges faced by private healthcare sector

As a healthcare professional and Singapore citizen, I was troubled to read last Friday's report ("S'pore 'losing medical tourists to neighbours' ").

There are some factors contributing to the sharp decline in medical tourism.

First, staffing. The Government has increased nurses' pay so as to retain them in the public sector.

Hence, to attract the best talent, the private sector must also pay more, thereby raising the cost of hiring nurses across the board.

Second, property prices put pressure on the private healthcare sector.

The Government seems unwilling to increase the land supply for private hospitals or medical centres. Only two significant sites have been released in the last 30 years - the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Farrer Park Hospital sites.

It has also limited the amount of commercial space that can be used by medical clinics.

All this will put pressure on rentals, and cause transactions involving medical suites to continue to new highs.

I have lived in Thailand, and can attest to the fact that the level of medical care there is as good as, if not better than, what Singapore can provide.

I have also travelled to countries like South Korea, where I saw unique standalone healthcare centres that truly integrate healthcare and technology with futuristic ideas on personalised and preventive healthcare.

Singapore doctors are welcomed around the world because of their intelligence and ability.

The Government must take immediate action so as not to waste the talent of our healthcare professionals.

I urge the Government to engage in more dialogue with private healthcare providers, to better understand the challenges they face.

Together, we can pursue new opportunities that leverage our talented workforce and enable us to lead the region into the next millennium.

Beng Teck Liang (Dr)

This article was first published on May 11, 2015.
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