‘Hard choices’ need to be made to keep healthcare spending sustainable: PM Lee

‘Hard choices’ need to be made to keep healthcare spending sustainable: PM Lee

Hard choices will have to be made as the Government considers ways to fund future healthcare spending, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the opening ceremony of Sengkang General Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital on Saturday (Mar 23). Lee Li Ying reports.

SINGAPORE: Hard choices will have to be made as the Government considers ways to fund future healthcare spending, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Mar 23). 

Healthcare expenditure currently exceeds S$9 billion and is set to rise even further. Eventually, this will be unsustainable, Mr Lee said.

“In the medium term, we have to find new ways to fund this healthcare spending. But at the same time, we have to think hard about what we must spend on, and which drugs and procedures are cost-effective,” he added.

“Hard choices will need to be made, and I hope we will have the support of Singaporeans in making them.”

Mr Lee was speaking at the opening ceremony of Sengkang General Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital.

Sengkang Community Hospital
Sengkang Community Hospital is located near Cheng Lim and Farmway LRT stations. (Photo: Sengkang General Hospital)

He noted that although Singapore spends less on healthcare than most other developed countries, it has better outcomes.

This is mainly because Singapore has structured its system properly, Mr Lee said, and built in the right incentives to guard against overconsumption of healthcare.

“This is not easy to do,” he said.

“It’s very very difficult to tell people that the treatment they want is not really necessary, or not cost effective. Yet we have to watch how heavily the Government subsidises healthcare. This is not just to save taxpayers’ money, but to avoid encouraging over-treatment by doctors and over-consumption of healthcare.”

Singapore has been steadily building and expanding medical facilities across the island as part of the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan. In 2010, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital opened in the north, and in 2015 Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital opened in the west.

Sengkang General Hospital
Sengkang General Hospital.

The new hospitals in Sengkang will eventually add about 1,000 acute beds and 400 community beds to the national healthcare capacity.

Mr Lee noted that the co-location of Sengkang General Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital - with more services integrated at one location - is the latest example of Singapore’s shift towards a more patient-centric, multidisciplinary approach to healthcare.

Lee Hsien Loong Sengkang hospital 2
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tries out a virtual reality walking machine. (Photo: Sengkang General Hospital)

“For example, a patient who has been treated at Sengkang General Hospital can be smoothly transferred to the Community Hospital for rehabilitation and continuing care,” he said.

“This is especially helpful for older patients who tend to need longer to recover. The doctors and staff in both hospitals work together as one team to look after the patient comprehensively. Administration is also simplified.”

He added that Singapore's healthcare system must adapt to meet changing needs like longer life expectancy, rise in chronic diseases and smaller family sizes.

And while the Government is building better facilities, improving the healthcare system is a collective effort, Mr Lee said, as he urged Singaporeans to take responsibility for their own health.

“The best thing that we can do for ourselves is to take care of our own health, stay healthy, and avoid going to the hospital at all,” he said.

“Many diseases are preventable if we watch our diet or lead healthy lifestyles.”

Source: CNA/gs

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