Paring costs may be kindest approach in healthcare

It is one thing to urge doctors to treat their patients with kindness, and quite another to ensure that the healthcare industry abides by its fiduciary duty (Keep kindness at the core of healthcare, by Dr William Wan; July 17).

The foremost mission of public healthcare is to treat patients with the utmost competence and empathy, providing quality service at the most affordable prices.

One could even argue that responsible pricing is the logical extension of kindness, especially when many patients may come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

When hospitals begin charging patients miscellaneous fees for trivial items, such as sponge baths, urine bags, and other standard nursing amenities, one senses the distinct absence of empathy or understanding.

It is unsurprising that, between 2012 and 2016, the rate at which healthcare costs rose in Singapore outpaced the general inflation rate.

If the state can intervene so decisively and effectively to cool an overheating property market, it should do the same for the cost of medical care.

When hospitals deviate from their core responsibility of affordable care, the authorities should intervene immediately to investigate why patients' interests have been compromised.

When found guilty of engaging in profiteering, the doctors and hospitals responsible should be punished to the fullest extent permitted by the relevant legislation on unfair business practices.

The Government needs to moderate the inflation rate and curb unjustifiable price hikes to mitigate the inequitable distribution of income and wealth.

Applying the brakes on pseudo free-market forces in essential services is arguably the most impactful form of kindness.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline 'Paring costs may be kindest approach in healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe