SINGAPORE - Those who need to engage private ambulances will now be able to check a list of which services have met new standards that seek to improve patient safety and quality.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 16) that this list of private ambulance operators accredited under a voluntary accreditation scheme will be available on its website.
The list includes operators that provide services to the public as well as operators serving the in-house needs of organisations such as hospitals and corporations. Contact details are provided in the list for operators serving the public.
The MOH will also work with accredited ambulance operators to develop and publish the range of fees charged so that consumers can make better-informed choices on the providers to use.
The voluntary accreditation scheme for private ambulance operators was introduced by the MOH in January 2018 to encourage these operators to make changes early to meet new tightened rules for them.
So far, more than half of all private ambulances in Singapore, from 30 operators, have met the new standards.
The rules come under the new Healthcare Services Act, which was tabled in Parliament earlier this month. The Act is set to come into effect between early 2021 and end 2022, and ambulance operators will be licensed under the Act in its second phase of implementation in the second half of 2021.
Under the new rules, private ambulance operators will have to, among other things, register their vehicles as either private emergency ambulances or medical transport services. The latter will not be allowed to use sirens or lights, and are meant for non-emergency cases.
According to operators, many of the new rules codify standard practices in the industry.
The MOH said on Thursday that as part of the voluntary accreditation scheme's application process, it conducts preliminary assessments on ambulance personnel and vehicles, and provides on-site assistance to help operators meet the safety and quality standards necessary for accreditation.
The ministry has also partnered training institutions like the Alice Lee Institute of Advanced Nursing, Institute of Technical Education and Nanyang Polytechnic to offer training programmes for ambulance personnel to learn or upgrade their skills to meet the crew requirements under the new standards.
"MOH's priority is to ensure that patient safety and welfare are not compromised in the provision of healthcare services," the ministry said in its statement, adding that even before the new rules for private ambulances come into effect in 2021, it has taken steps to raise the capabilities and competencies of players in the industry.
The ministry released a set of standards in 2017 to give private ambulance operators clarity on the requirements to provide an appropriate level of safe clinical care to patients using private ambulance services.
These include training requirements for different ambulance crew members, as well as mandating the use of essential documentation, equipment, medication, and life-saving and infection control protocols.
Operators assessed to have met these 2017 standards set by the MOH can be accredited under the voluntary accreditation scheme.
As for the remaining private ambulance operators that have yet to come on board the accreditation scheme, the MOH said on Thursday that it will continue to encourage them to do so.