SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) will reorganise the healthcare system into three integrated clusters, from the existing six regional health systems.
In a media release on Wednesday (Jan 18), MOH said this will better meet Singaporeans’ future healthcare needs.
“Over the last few years, MOH has significantly improved the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare in Singapore under our Healthcare 2020 Masterplan,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. “Nevertheless, we cannot afford to stay still as there remain many challenges ahead such as our ageing population, increased chronic disease burden and the need to manage future growth in healthcare manpower and spending.”
“This reorganisation of the public healthcare clusters will enable us to meet our future healthcare challenges. I am confident that we will be able to better optimise resources and capabilities, and provide more comprehensive and patient-centred care to meet Singaporeans’ evolving needs,” he added.
FROM SIX TO THREE; POLYCLINICS ALSO TO BE REORGANISED
Singapore’s public healthcare system is currently organised into six regional health systems: Alexandra Health System, Eastern Health Alliance, Jurong Health Services, National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and Singapore Health Services.
With the reorganisation, the six regional health systems will be merged into the following three clusters:
- In the Central region, the National Healthcare Group and Alexandra Health System will form one cluster, to be known as the National Healthcare Group (NHG). It will be headed by current NHG Group CEO Professor Philip Choo.
- In the Eastern region, the Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) and the Eastern Health Alliance will form a second cluster under SingHealth, headed by current SingHealth Group CEO Professor Ivy Ng.
- In the Western region, the National University Health System (NUHS) will merge with Jurong Health Services to form the third cluster, to be named NUHS. It will be headed by current NUHS Group CEO Professor John Wong.
In line with the three new clusters, the polyclinics will also be re-organised into three groups: NHG Polyclinics, SingHealth Polyclinics and the new National University Polyclinics. This is up from the current two groups.
The exercise will entail some transfers of polyclinics across groups. For example, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi and Jurong polyclinics will be moved from NHG to NUHS. Geylang Polyclinic will be moved from SingHealth to NHG, while Queenstown Polyclinic will be moved from SingHealth to NUHS.
National Specialty Centres and specialised hospitals like the Institute of Mental Health and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital will remain with their existing clusters.
The reorganisation is expected to be completed by early 2018, said MOH.
POSITIONING SINGAPORE FOR THE FUTURE
“The current system works quite well, and the clusters have done a good job catalysing initial care transformation efforts,” said Dr Lee Chien Earn, Group CEO of Eastern Health Alliance. “However, the changes announced by MOH are meant to position us for the future, as our challenges are long-term ones.”
For example, MOH said that primary care, which is offered by polyclinics and general practitioners, will play an increasingly critical role in providing patient-centred care in the community.
“With the reorganisation, each cluster will bring together the capabilities of their polyclinics and partnering GPs, as well as community service providers to drive primary care transformation and anchor care in the community as a collective force,” it said. With all three of the new clusters having primary care capabilities, this means that integration of care in instances like patient referrals will be streamlined.
The reorganisation will also enable the public healthcare institutions to deploy their resources and capabilities more efficiently, added MOH. This means that employees will get access to more and better career options and professional development opportunities.
Each merged cluster will, said MOH, have a fuller range of assets, capabilities, services and networks across different care settings. It can also draw from the combined strengths of its two original clusters.
PATIENT CARE WILL NOT BE AFFECTED; NO STAFF RETRENCHMENTS
In the transition, MOH reiterated that there will be no change to patient services. No action will be required of patients, which means there is no need for them to check if their appointments are still on. Fees will also not go up as a result of this reorganisation.
There will also be no disruption to any on-going healthcare infrastructure building projects.
As Singapore’s healthcare needs are still growing, there will be no retrenchments arising from the reorganisation, added MOH.
Disruption to staff will also be minimised. Almost everyone within the public healthcare sector will continue in their current roles, within their current teams, said MOH. While a small number may eventually be re-deployed, staff will be offered jobs that match their experience and skill sets without any changes to their current salaries. The clusters will consult with the union and staff on these changes, it added.
For one, Eastern Health Alliance’s Dr Lee said it has been progressively briefing leaders and staff in the organisation through one-on-one discussions, small group dialogues and town halls. It has also met SingHealth’s leadership to learn more about each other’s current work and future plans, and also to agree on key principles that will guide their work during and after the transition period.
The Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU) said it is confident it can "work closely with stakeholders to ensure that (its) workers will not be adversely affected by the terms and conditions of employment after the reorganisation".
HSEU general secretary Diana Chia added that the union will continue to hold engagement sessions with its members to address their concerns and clarify queries regarding the change. The union will also continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to facilitate the transition of the affected healthcare workers, she said.