Remove cap on clinics in commercial developments to rein in rentals

Cooling measures on medical properties alone won't help to lower costs ("Time for cooling measures on medical properties?" by Mr Lionel Loi Zhi Rui; Dec 17).

Rather, the Government should be more proactive in helping general practitioner clinics rein in high rentals.

Capping the number of clinics allowed in commercial developments inadvertently created an artificial shortage of clinic spaces and allowed the owners to inflate rentals.

This gave rise to negative externalities that affected clinic overhead costs, with the spillover effects passed on to patients.

Clinics' operating costs have also gone up, with the bulk of increases coming from rentals, drugs and vaccines, lab, X-ray, insurance, utilities, sundry and manpower costs.

These affect the total costs per patient, who end up paying more.

Rather than ascribing blame to rising costs, GPs should continue to upgrade themselves and spend more time with each patient to render better medical service and raise the standard of primary care.

In this way, patients will find it more "value for money" and be willing to pay more.

The important thing is for doctors to be cost-effective and judicious in their recommendations to patients, and avoid practising defensive medicine.

It is also common for GPs to charge more for consultations at night and on public holidays.

This should not be the case.

Perhaps our polyclinics could consider offering services at night and on public holidays, so as to ease the queue at the GP clinics and to provide some much-needed competition.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Remove cap on clinics in commercial developments to rein in rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe