Pregnant women who test positive for the Zika virus but cannot afford regular scans and follow-up treatment will not be left without help, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.
He assured them that, if necessary, additional aid is available from Medifund, a government scheme for those who cannot pay their medical bills after exhausting all other avenues.
"For treatment in our public healthcare institutions, they can always access our subsidy framework if they are subsidised patients," he said, when replying to Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) in Parliament.
"If they are unable to afford the costs, especially for the lower-income families, Medifund is available for them."
In his ministerial statement on Zika yesterday, Mr Gan acknowledged that pregnant women are "understandably anxious" about the outbreak of the mosquito- borne infection.
"We are paying particular attention to them because of the possible risks to their foetuses if they are infected by Zika," he said.
Currently, the Health Ministry is offering free testing to pregnant women with Zika symptoms or whose male partners are Zika-positive, as long as a doctor recommends that it is necessary.
The World Health Organisation does not recommend routine Zika testing for pregnant women without symptoms.
"Pregnant women who are tested positive for Zika will be referred by their doctors to an obstetric or maternal-foetal medicine specialist for counselling and subsequent follow-up," Mr Gan said.
Regular ultrasound scans will be carried out to monitor the development of the foetus, he added, stressing that the Zika infection does not necessarily mean the baby will have microcephaly.
Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) asked if there have been other cases of microcephaly in Singapore.
Yes, Mr Gan said. "Over the last five years, we have an average of between five and 12 microcephaly cases per 10,000 live births in Singapore," he said.
"For the patients with microcephaly, we continue to provide support and manage them the same way as we manage children with congenital conditions."