Operation fees and doctors' salaries: 'No direct link', says Lam Pin Min

Tan Tok Seng Hospital. There is "no direct link" between total operation fees and doctors' salaries at public hospitals, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Tan Tok Seng Hospital. There is "no direct link" between total operation fees and doctors' salaries at public hospitals, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

There is "no direct link" between total operation fees and doctors' salaries at public hospitals, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday.

He explained that this is why the Ministry of Health (MOH) will not be providing a breakdown of total operation fees when it starts publishing them on its website next month.

"In public hospitals, as most doctors are paid a salary by the hospitals, there is no direct link between the total operation fee and doctors' salaries," Dr Lam said.

"Therefore, the data will not be further broken down into the various components, including what would have been called 'doctors' fees' in the private sector."

He was speaking at the Asia Pacific Congress in Maternal Fetal Medicine, held at the Suntec City Convention Centre.

Total operation fees - which make up part of the total hospital bill - sum up how much the surgeon, anaesthetist and the facilities cost.

The MOH announced plans to publish the figures for public hospitals last Saturday.

Currently, it provides only total hospital bills for 80 common conditions in both public and private hospitals.

However, an MOH spokesman said that it will work with private hospitals "to ensure accuracy and completeness of their data... and will publish that data when it is ready".

Dr Lam also highlighted how some doctors had raised concerns over how their peers might be contributing to medical inflation because of "the way (they) practise and charge for their services".

In the light of this, a working committee from the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is preparing a consultation paper to review the ethical and professional conduct framework for doctors, to reflect the changes in technology, practice patterns, societal norms and expectations.

The SMC said in a statement released yesterday: "The draft guidelines are being finalised and we anticipate that they will be sent to all SMC-registered medical practitioners shortly for their inputs as part of a consultation exercise."

Dr Lam also said the Health Ministry is working with public hospitals to set up medical-device committees.

These will help "ensure rational selection and utilisation of new medical devices".

Similar committees to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of drugs already exist.

"The value of health technology is maximised when it is used for the right patient in the right way in clinical practice," he said.

linettel@sph.com.sg