Hospital charges, transfers based on patients' condition

We refer to Ms Salma Khalik's commentary (Be transparent on public hospital ward charges; July 10) and subsequent letters on hospital charges.

Ms Khalik asked why the patient had been transferred from Changi General Hospital (CGH) to KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH). A patient may be transferred when there is a clinical need for it, and this is done in consultation with the patient.

In this instance, the patient was assessed by CGH's clinical team to require gynaecological treatment.

As CGH does not offer obstetrics and gynaecology services, CGH consulted KKH, a tertiary obstetrics and gynaecology hospital, and both clinical teams assessed that the patient would be clinically better managed at KKH. The patient was consulted and agreed to the transfer.

Due to developments in the patient's condition during her 23-day stay in KKH, she was assessed to need further medical interventions requiring specialists in other areas. These specialists were brought in to provide care for the patient while she was at KKH. This need was not anticipated when the transfer to KKH first took place.

KKH had itemised the costs associated with the patient's care for transparency, including the costs incurred by the long length of stay at the hospital and the treatment she received in the different specialist areas. As she is a foreigner, she was not eligible for government subsidies and other forms of financial support.

The Ministry of Health monitors the overall bill sizes of public healthcare institutions (PHIs) to ensure they are affordable for Singaporeans. Due to the array of services offered, there are some variations in charges across these institutions. Nonetheless, these charges must be reasonable and proportional to the care rendered.

We understand that different approaches to charging across PHIs can be confusing for patients.

KKH has been in the process of aligning fees and charges with those of other PHIs, and has already included the charges for sponging and assisted bath into their ward charges. The alignment of other charges is ongoing and will be progressively implemented.

The Government provides subsidies to ensure healthcare costs remain affordable for Singaporeans.

Patients who cannot afford their bills after subsidies, MediShield Life and Medisave, can apply for Medifund.

No Singaporean will be denied appropriate medical treatment because of their inability to pay.

Lim Siok Peng (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'Hospital charges, transfers based on patients' condition'. Print Edition | Subscribe