Renowned for its top-notch healthcare system, Singapore has garnered numerous global accolades, including high rankings in Bloomberg’s annual healthcare efficiency index. With both public and private hospitals in Singapore, the local healthcare system is designed to ensure that all have access to world-class care. The hospitals offer quality medical services catering to different needs at various price points. So, what exactly are the differences between public and private hospitals? And, most importantly, which should you go to? Alejandra Perez Coria, Head of Sales & Renewals at Pacific Prime Singapore, offers six important differences to help make your decision a little easier.
#1 Wait times
As more people seek public hospital treatment, wait times tend to be longer. Unlike other countries, wait times at public hospitals in Singapore are still quite reasonable. According to the Ministry of Health’s statistics on waiting times at public A&E departments (22 October to 28 October 2017), some hospitals saw wait-times of less than one hour, while others had averages of about three hours. On the other hand, at private hospitals, you can expect wait times of no more than one hour for admission.
Regardless of whether they’re public or private, hospitals prioritise patients with urgent or life-threatening cases (such as a stroke), meaning those with semi-urgent cases (joint dislocation, for example) can expect slightly longer wait times.
Public hospitals are wholly owned by the government, which explains why they’re often referred to as “government hospitals”. While they are government owned, they license healthcare companies like SingHealth to operate them. Private hospitals are owned and managed independently by groups such as Raffles Medical Group, Parkway Holdings and Pacific Healthcare Holdings.
#3 Hospital size
Public hospitals tend to be larger, with a generally higher number of inpatient beds – the number ranged from 185 to 2,010 as of 2015. Private hospitals are usually smaller, with smaller bed capacities (20 to 345 as of 2015).
#4 Medical staff
Doctors and medical staff in both sectors are well-trained and highly qualified. There’s not much difference, although doctors in private hospitals tend to spend more time with individual patients. Private doctors who are independent also set their own prices (which can be very high).
#5 Comfort level
Within the public hospitals, you can opt for different types of hospital ward accommodation: Class A, B1, B2 and C. Class C wards are the cheapest, usually having eight to 10 beds in one room. Class B2 wards have around six beds in one room. B1 wards only have four beds and come with added benefits like air-con and television. Those who desire more privacy and comfort can opt for a Class A ward. They are private rooms featuring facilities comparable to private hospital rooms (television, reclining armchair, bar fridge, en-suite bathroom and so on).
If luxury is what you’re after, private hospitals like Gleneagles Hospital and the new Farrer Park Hospital go the extra mile to ensure that patients are pampered by making hospital suites look and feel like hotel rooms. Concierge service, personalised tablets with Wi-Fi access, en-suite bathrooms with premium toiletries, massages and a limo ride home are just some of the many extravagant perks offered. You’ll likely need to splurge if you don’t have a comprehensive private health insurance plan.
Public hospital care is more affordable, especially for Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents who have access to government subsidies. It’s important to note here that costs differ with residency status. For example, for a specialist outpatient consultation with an ENT doctor, Singaporeans can expect to pay around $35, Permanent Residents around $53 and non-residents $143 (non-subsidised).
Private hospitals can get pricey. A day-surgery colonoscopy can cost up to $3,580, whereas the subsidised price for the same procedure at a public hospital can cost less than $693. It’s recommended to secure private health insurance if you wish to opt for private medical care.
Which type of hospital should I opt for?
At the end of the day, where you decide to go for care is entirely up to you. The answer to this question depends on your needs (comfort, location and privacy preferences, for example), as well as your budget. However, to access more personalised care in the fastest time possible, health insurance offers the option of accessing the private care you desire. Health insurance is especially important for expats, many of whom do not have access to subsidies.
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