Access Medical to use own money to provide subsidies for Chas patients after suspension

Access Medical, which manages 13 clinics here, will use its own money to provide subsidies for all its Community Health Assist Scheme patients for the entire length of the suspension. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - All Access Medical clinics that will be suspended from the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) are still operating as normal, and none of the group's doctors have been suspended.

Access Medical, which manages 13 clinics around the island, will also use its own money to provide subsidies for all its Chas patients for the entire length of the suspension.

The subsidy will likely be around 50 per cent, said the group's founder and managing director Lim Yong Chin on Wednesday (Oct 10).

Dr Lim said that after audits from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in August last year, steps were taken to ensure claim compliance, such as rectifying "shortcomings" in IT infrastructure and re-educating staff and doctors on the correct way of doing claims.

He added: "We have instituted a claims checking process, where every claim is checked by two people apart from the person who enters the claim."

Dr Lim said: "So far this has been working well for the past 12 months with very much improved compliance to Chas guidelines."

MOH said on Monday that audits of 10 Access Medical clinics "have revealed severe non-compliance".

While they claimed for government subsidies under Chas, there were doubts over whether all the treatments were actually provided.

The clinics will be suspended from Oct 23 and MOH, which has called in the police, will also be asking the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to look into the behaviour of some doctors from these clinics.

The SMC serves as a watchdog for the medical profession here.

Dr Lim declined on Wednesday to reveal the number of Chas claims made through the group's 13 clinics on a monthly basis, as well as the types of Chas claims generally made, citing business confidentiality.

He added: "I have not received any information from any of my doctors about SMC queries."

He said that Access Medical took care of more than 33,000 unique Chas patients in the past 12 months until September.

Dr Lim said this figure is about 5 per cent of the number of all the patients who used their Chas benefits in the same period the previous year.

He said: "We are worried for their continuity of care and appeal to the Ministry of Health to reconsider our suspension."

When approached, an MOH spokesman reiterated: "MOH's in-depth audit on the Chas claims made by Access Medical revealed that they had over a period of time made numerous significant non-compliant Chas claims, such as claims for patient visits or chronic conditions with no relevant supporting documentation."

She added: "Such severe non-compliances are a serious misuse of government subsidies and unsubstantiated drawdown of patients' annual Chas subsidy limits, for which we have suspended the clinics' Chas participation.

"We are not able to comment further on the details of this case given the ongoing police investigations."

Once suspended, clinics cannot make Chas claims for their patients, but they can continue operating and offering their normal services.

The Access Medical clinics which will not be able to make Chas claims from Oct 23 are in Bedok South, Circuit Road, East Coast, Kim Keat, Marine Terrace, Toa Payoh, Whampoa, Jurong West, Redhill Close and Bukit Batok.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.