Patient care, not training, should be the priority

In response to Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah's inquiry as to whether subsidised dental treatments could be offered at other public hospitals to cope with the long waiting time at the National Dental Centre, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min stated that the Health Ministry preferred to consolidate manpower as well as speciality resources (More dental facilities to cater to growing needs; May 9). He added that doing so also allows for training of dental students .

I have some concerns about this.

Shouldn't all Singaporeans be entitled to subsidised specialist dental treatment in public healthcare institutions, since these hospitals and their respective dental clinics are funded by taxpayers?

Should subsidised specialist dental treatment for our needy citizens come with a caveat that they will be "used" for the purpose of training and education?

Would limiting subsidised specialist dental care to a teaching institution not result in prolonged waiting and treatment times?

Healthcare, of which dentistry is an integral part, should not be conflated with training and education. Priority should be given to the care and treatment of the patient, especially our elderly.

Rather than make patients travel to another public institution for treatment, dental students should be attached to the various hospitals, where they can learn from an even larger pool of clinicians.

The location of the National Dental Centre and upcoming National University Centre for Oral Health does not benefit residents of districts such as Woodlands, Yishun, Punggol, Tampines, Bukit Batok and Jurong.

Subsidised specialist dental care should be made available in all regional hospitals to not only provide holistic, seamless and expedient care, but to also avoid the creation of unnecessarily long waiting times.

Koh Leng Koon (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Patient care, not training, should be the priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe