Protection for obstetricians: Urgent solution needed

IN THE absence of a post-retirement protection plan for obstetricians, the higher cost of delivery and the looming shortage of experienced obstetricians call for an urgent solution to avoid a national crisis ("Looming shortage of doctors to deliver babies"; Feb 18).

It is not in society's interest for babies to be born without the protection of long-term cover, nor is it in society's interest for obstetricians to deliver babies without long-term cover, especially one that offers them peace of mind in their retirement.

A "claims-made" insurance plan does not cover claims made after the obstetrician leaves his practice or retires, or after a policy has expired or has been cancelled.

With additional "tail insurance" coverage, a doctor is able to report claims to the insurer during the period of tail coverage for claims that took place during the expired policy term of the "claims-made" insurance plan.

The current plan offers tail insurance only for five years with no assurance of renewal. Hence, from Year 6 post-retirement, both the doctor and patient may not be covered.

We understand that quite a few obstetrics and gynaecology specialists, both in the private and public sectors, have stopped taking in new obstetric patients in anticipation of the time when the current medical indemnity arrangements will end.

The Singapore Medical Association agrees that the gravity of the current situation facing specialists in obstetrics and gynaecology, if left unaddressed, will result in a large number of babies born "uncovered", a future problem for society that should be prevented.

While the authorities work on a long-term solution to resolve this unfortunate predicament, it is critical that an interim arrangement be introduced to mitigate the price society will have to pay just when Singapore is finally seeing a rise in the number of babies born.

This urgent call is made in the hope that expectant mothers will not be left with fewer choices to deliver their babies both within and outside public hospitals, or with doctors with sub-optimal cover.

Wong Tien Hua (Dr)

First Vice-President

Singapore Medical Association

This article was first published on March 03, 2015.
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