Debate on ministries' budgets

$80m boost for fund to spur productivity in healthcare

NHG radiographer Harris Abdul Razak using the digital radiography system to process an X-ray image of a patient's ankle at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic. X-rays can now be done for 120 patients a day "without breaking a sweat", he says, compared to up to 80
NHG radiographer Harris Abdul Razak using the digital radiography system to process an X-ray image of a patient's ankle at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic. X-rays can now be done for 120 patients a day "without breaking a sweat", he says, compared to up to 80 patients a day "if we rushed" previously.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Amid concerns about manpower shortages in healthcare, $80 million will be injected into a fund to promote productivity in healthcare over the next three years.

The addition to the $130 million Healthcare Productivity Fund is to encourage more people to take part in and seize opportunities to raise productivity, said Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat during the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.

Since its launch in 2012, the fund has led to the implementation of 250 projects benefiting more than 70 public healthcare and community care organisations.

Mr Chee was replying to MPs such as Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked how the Ministry of Health (MOH) encourages healthcare innovation and productivity.

Mr Chee said productivity efforts extend beyond hospitals to the community, and the Agency for Integrated Care will work with healthcare providers to redesign manpower-intensive processes such as rehabilitation and showering.

For example, in one project that led to greater productivity, X-ray cassettes were replaced by digital X-rays.

At National Healthcare Group (NHG) polyclinics, which had converted to digital radiography by last year, X-ray images are available just six seconds after they are taken.

It now takes just 15 minutes, down from 20 minutes, for patients to take a X-ray.

Radiographers say they have become more productive.

Mr Harris Abdul Razak, 31, a radiographer with NHG, said that previously they could do X-rays for up to 80 patients a day "if we rushed".

"Now, we can (do X-rays for) 120 patients a day without breaking a sweat," he said, adding that the high resolution of the digital images also means that they can be enlarged for easier diagnosis.

Meanwhile, to spur innovative solutions on a larger scale, MOH has set up an office for healthcare transformation headed by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, former National University of Singapore president.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday that the MOH Office of Healthcare Transformation "will focus on longer-term ideas that can be scaled up for system-level transformation".

Some of the ideas will be tested at the Alexandra Hospital campus, to be taken over by the National University Health System from the second half of the year, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline '$80m boost for fund to spur productivity in healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe