Crucial to 'keep getting healthcare right'

It's not just about expanding health facilities, S'poreans can help support system too: PM

An elderly man walking along a covered walkway in Toa Payoh.
An elderly man walking along a covered walkway in Toa Payoh. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

With the number of patients rising steadily as the country ages, Singapore will need to expand current facilities and get new hospitals.

But these are just part of the equation in ensuring that people continue to enjoy one of the best healthcare systems in the world, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday. It is also important to "keep on getting the system right".

And this is going to be hard.


With better protection through MediShield Life and schemes such as the Pioneer Generation Package for seniors and the Community Health Assist Scheme for middle- and lower-income families, patients and doctors have less to worry about when it comes to healthcare costs.

That means there is "greater incentive to overuse healthcare services".

"We have to make sure that patients don't overuse resources and doctors don't over-treat patients," said PM Lee, who also urged Singaporeans to be proactive in leading healthy lives.

"Ultimately, Singaporeans must be willing to support the system and support the Government when it tries to keep the system efficient, accessible and sustainable."

He was speaking at the official opening of the 700-bed Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in Jurong East yesterday. Mr Lee said Sengkang and Woodlands general hospitals and Yishun, Sengkang, Outram and Woodlands community hospitals will open over the next seven years.

These facilities will be needed to cope with the rapidly ageing population.

The number of people aged 65 years and older for every 100 working adults went up from 12 in 2005 to 13 in 2010. The Prime Minister said those numbers were manageable until 2010, when they started to increase very rapidly.

Today, it is 18 people aged 65 years and older for every 100 working adults, he went on, adding that rising healthcare costs are "one of the major reasons why our Budget spending will grow over the years".

Aside from hospitals, various areas of care such as primary and nursing care are also being ramped up.

This way, he said, "the patient gets appropriate treatment in the right place. And the system as a whole delivers better care for the patient, in a cost-effective way".

Mr Lee also spoke about how people need to take their medical conditions seriously. He highlighted how a third of people who go for a health screening find out about a medical condition, but many fail to follow up on it.

"It's really wasted effort," he said. "And you are sitting on something that will cause you a lot of trouble later.

"The best thing you can do is to take care of yourself and keep healthy, because that will give you the best quality of life."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Crucial to 'keep getting healthcare right''. Subscribe