Saturday, 25 March 2017

Public healthcare institutions operate on non-profit basis

We refer to the two letters by Mr David Soh Poh Huat (Do public hospitals profit from medical procedures done?; March 11, and Health Ministry should step in to regulate costs; Forum Online, March 17).

Our public healthcare institutions (PHIs) operate on a non-profit basis. Where margins are applied, these are used to cover manpower, operations and maintenance, and overhead costs associated with the provision of specific services, drugs and investigations.

Revenue from patients alone is not enough to cover costs. PHIs require substantial funding from the Government in order to provide subsidised care to patients.

In financial year 2015, government funding to PHIs amounted to $4.3 billion.

MOH agrees that fee publication improves price transparency and helps patients make better-informed healthcare decisions.

As most patients are concerned with the total cost of treatments, MOH has been publishing "Total Hospital Bills" sizes for 80 common conditions (covering more than 60 per cent of cases) at both public and private hospitals.

MOH has also published "Total Operation Fees" in both public and private hospitals. These are broken down into about 140 common procedures (which account for almost 80 per cent of all procedures).

The Total Hospital Bills and Total Operation Fees for common conditions and procedures can be found at

MOH will continue to review and make improvements in the publication of medical fees.

Lim Bee Khim
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 24 Mar 2017

SGH: Our charges are comparable to most hospitals

We thank Mr David Soh Poh Huat for his letter (Do public hospitals profit from medical procedures done?; March 11 ).

Whole-body scans account for more than 90 per cent of positron emission tomography (PET)-CT scans done at Singapore General Hospital. The charges for this service, with and without intravenous contrast, are $2,400 and $2,300 before GST respectively.

Our charges reflect the underlying costs of providing the service. This includes manpower, supplies and consumables, maintenance and depreciation, and other non-direct costs such as having an integrated clinical IT platform where images are digitally archived and patients' medical records stored and made easily accessible for doctors' consultations across all public healthcare institutions.

This ensures timely diagnosis and access to care.

Our charges are comparable to those of most other hospitals in the public and private sectors, although we note that one private PET centre charges $1,600 for some groups of patients, as stated in Mr Soh's letter.

Apart from differences in the specific types of machines and sensitivity of scans, there may be differences in clinical protocols and software used, which could have an impact on longer-term management of patients with complex and multiple conditions.

Various providers may also have different pricing strategies.

Patients can discuss with their doctors the appropriateness of any scan and decide where they prefer to get the scan done.

Ang Kwok Ann
Chief Financial Officer
Singapore General Hospital
ST Forum, 24 Mar 2017

Health Ministry should step in to regulate costs

Singapore is already well known for being one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in.

More and more, I am hearing that we are also a very expensive country to seek medical treatment in.

With Singapore aiming to be a medical hub, shouldn't this be a cause for concern?

Maybe it is time for the Health Ministry, besides regulating its own medical procedural costs, to start compiling a list of "key treatment" costs in the main private hospitals.

We have top-class medical services here but if we do not keep the high costs in check, we can expect patients to start going elsewhere, like Malaysia and Thailand.

There is no point building more medical hubs when the main costs of treatment are not regulated.

David Soh Poh Huat
ST Forum, 17 Mar 2017

Do public hospitals profit from medical procedures done?

While public healthcare institutions do not make a profit on the drugs they prescribe, could the Health Ministry clarify if this also applies to the medical procedures carried out in the hospitals (No profit margins on drugs sold in public hospitals: Gan; March 10)?

For example, I understand that a positron emission tomography (PET) scan at Singapore General Hospital would cost a non-subsidised patient around $3,000, whereas undergoing one in a private hospital costs about $1,600.

Maybe it is time for the MOH to compile a list of the non-subsidised cost of procedures - CT scans, MRIs and so on - and publish it on its website for patients to compare.

David Soh Poh Huat
ST Forum, 11 Mar 2017

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