The Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), which is a scheme by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to enable Singaporeans to receive subsidies at participating general practitioner (GP) clinics, aims to ensure that Singaporeans receive medical care near their homes.
However, based on anecdotal comments that have appeared in the press, many patients still prefer to seek medical treatments at polyclinics, resulting, in many cases, in longer waiting times for them.
A coordinated national system where every Singaporean is assigned a few Chas-accredited GP clinics near his home - rather like the practice where voters are allocated designated polling stations in a general election - may reduce the high patient load at polyclinics, as well as provide more convenient and coordinated care by the GPs.
This measure is also in line with the MOH vision of "One family physician for every Singaporean".
To make the system more appealing, incentives such as more subsidies for medical treatments could encourage a shift in public mindset, to one that sees that such GP clinics also provide quality and affordable health care for the population.
This initiative may also persuade those GPs who are at present not interested in joining Chas, to rethink their stance.
The MOH has taken the right steps to speed up development of the health-care infrastructure, by way of building more polyclinics and introducing greater liberalisation of the use of Medisave.
It should, however, recognise that polyclinics would never provide the same convenience as private clinics, and public resistance to seeking subsidised care at Chas-accredited GPs remains because of a lack of education on the issue and proper communication.
There is thus more urgency on the part of MOH to improve and ensure the right siting of care, so that other public health-care resources, such as hospital accident and emergency departments, can focus more on their core roles.
This article was published on April 21 in The Straits Times.
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