Parliament: Disease prevention, long waiting times raised as debate on Health Ministry starts

An elderly woman sits in the pharmacy waiting area of Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic.
An elderly woman sits in the pharmacy waiting area of Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Keeping Singaporeans healthy and the overall sustainability of the healthcare system were issues several MPs raised in Parliament on Tuesday evening at the start of the debate on the Health Ministry's budget.

Other issues that came under the spotlight included long waiting times at polyclinics and specialist outpatient clinics.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and other office-holders are expected to address these topics when Parliament sits again at 11.30am on Wednesday.

Starting the debate, Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked what the Ministry is doing to promote healthy living and prevent disease among Singaporeans.

"How does one go about convincing people to continue making the right lifestyle choices, day after day, over one's lifetime?" he said. "The lure of just that one more cigarette, just that one extra helping of char kway teow, that one extra can of soda... is often just too difficult to resist."

Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera spoke up on long waiting times at polyclinics, while Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) questioned long waiting times at specialist outpatient clinics.

He said that he had received feedback from a patient who waited six months to see a specialist, and a further three months for the patient's biopsy result.

"During this long wait, the patient's condition could deteriorate and he could develop complications that are harder and more expensive to treat," said Mr Low.

Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan also said the process for private patients to downgrade to become subsidised patients is "unnecessarily inefficient and bureaucratic", and should be streamlined.