Health-care costs, hospital bed crunch key topics at government forum

Speaking at the session at the Health Promotion Board building, Mr Gan said the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan was "not enough" and the goal was for all Singaporeans to stay healthy as long as possible.
Speaking at the session at the Health Promotion Board building, Mr Gan said the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan was "not enough" and the goal was for all Singaporeans to stay healthy as long as possible.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The affordability of health care and the hospital bed crunch were the key concerns of participants at a government feedback forum yesterday evening.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong assured the audience of mainly senior citizens and young professionals that health care will remain affordable, but reminded them that staying healthy is the key to keeping costs low.

Speaking at the session at the Health Promotion Board building, Mr Gan said the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan is "not enough".

"We want to help all Singaporeans stay healthy as long as possible, and as much as possible," he said. "Because if all of us fall sick and don't take care of our health, we will have to continue to build more and more hospitals, and the costs will keep going up."

The issue of affordability resurfaced as a priority after the Government announced that MediShield Life will likely see increased premiums due to expanded coverage.

At the post-Budget forum, jointly organised by the Health Ministry and government feedback unit Reach, Mr Gan said the Government will continue to monitor health-care costs.

The forum was lively, with many of the 150 or so participants fighting for air time towards the end of the two-hour session.

Several also raised concerns about the complexity of schemes such as the Pioneer Generation Package. Mr Xavier Samy, 68, for one, felt the implementation of policies could be improved. "Many elderly people are very confused," he said.

Mr Gan told Mr Samy that an inter-agency task force is in the works to better communicate the benefits of these new policies.

Some of the participants also raised concerns about the hospital bed crunch and capacity.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, also chairman of Reach, said the Government will do "as much as we can" to address the capacity issue.

"But we need to realise that this could happen again," she said, referring to seasonal peaks that could strain hospital resources.

"I think we need to put these concerns in context. What is important is to make sure that patient safety is not compromised."

linettel@sph.com.sg