Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Official Opening of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, 13 Sep 2014

Dato’ Mohammed Azlan Bin Hashim, Chairman of Parkway Pantai,

Datuk Khairil Anuar Bin Abdullah, Vice Chairman of Parkway Pantai,

Dr Tan See Leng, Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Parkway Pantai,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

1.        A very good morning to you. I was here in 2011 to witness the topping out ceremony of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, and I am glad to be back today to join all of you at its official opening. 

2.        First, let me congratulate Parkway Pantai and the hospital team for successfully launching Mount Elizabeth Novena, a significant private hospital project. Since opening its doors in July 2012, I understand that the hospital has treated more than 20,000 patients, of whom 70 percent are locals.

Private Sector – An Integral Part of Our Healthcare System

3.        Parkway’s presence in Singapore dates as far back as 1985, beginning with Mount Elizabeth Hospital at Orchard Road.  Over the years, the Parkway hospital franchise has expanded to include Gleneagles Hospital, Parkway East Hospital and today, Mount Elizabeth Novena.  As the largest private hospital operator in Singapore, Parkway Pantai offers a diverse range of healthcare services.  Parkway Pantai and the private sector as a whole are integral parts of our healthcare system.

Enhancing Accessibility to Healthcare with Public-Private Collaborations

4.        Parkway Pantai has also gone on to serve patients beyond its conventional pool of private Singaporean and foreign patients in the past few years. 

5.        Since 2012, Changi General Hospital (CGH) has partnered Gleneagles Hospital, and later also Parkway East Hospital, to manage dengue cases referred by CGH. To date, more than 100 dengue patients have benefitted from this collaboration. They were treated at either Parkway East or Gleneagles as subsidised patients. 

6.        This collaboration has gone well, and we have explored how our public hospitals can further partner the private sector. I am therefore pleased that Mount Elizabeth Novena and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) have launched a pilot patient transfer initiative to manage patients from TTSH’s Emergency Department. Under this collaboration, patients who have been seen by a doctor at TTSH’s Emergency Department may be transferred to Mount Elizabeth Novena for follow-up care by Mount Elizabeth Novena’s team of doctors and nurses. The arrangement covers patients who have been assessed to have acute but stable conditions, for example gastroenteritis and gout. Patients continue to enjoy subsidies and do not pay more than they would otherwise have paid in TTSH.

7.        Through such public-private collaborations, we are finding creative ways to make healthcare more accessible to Singaporeans. I applaud Parkway Pantai for stepping forward to be part of the solution. We look forward to more of such collaborations with Parkway Pantai and other private operators.

Collective Responsibility to Enhancing Healthcare Affordability

8.        The perception of accessibility to patients is also closely linked to their ability to afford medical care. And with rising healthcare costs, affordability would be at the top of the minds of many Singaporeans. 

9.        There are many reasons for higher costs. These reasons could range from ageing to the availability of new drugs and technology, and from growing patient expectations to the ‘buffet syndrome’ for patients with excessive insurance coverage.

10.    In public hospitals, my Ministry encourages the use of drugs that have been proven to be cost-effective, and government subsidies are provided for such drugs.  The public sector has also been able to lower drug costs through bulk purchases, and pass on the savings to patients. MOH has similarly introduced a Health Technology Assessment framework for medical devices and implants to guide doctors and patients in choosing cost-effective options. The Government and insurers will also come together to take a closer look at unusually large bill sizes and claims.

11.    To address the concern of rising healthcare costs, we should help patients make informed choices. The Government has been a strong advocate of information transparency. Since 2003, MOH has been publishing total hospital bill sizes for 80 common conditions across the public and private sectors. We have since gone further. Earlier this month, we started publishing ‘Total Operation Fees’, which is a component of the total hospital bill comprising the ‘Surgeon Fee’, ‘Anesthetist Fee’ and ‘Facility Fee’ in our public hospitals. 

12.    We will continue to work to improve transparency of healthcare charges.  But rather than the Government working alone, we will do better if we work together. 

13.    Firstly, patients can help themselves by making informed decisions and guarding against over-consumption. The most expensive treatment may not be the best. The latest technology they read about on the internet may not always be better, or may not even be suitable for their specific condition. 

14.    Second, the private sector too can play its part in helping patients make the right decision and help keep healthcare affordable. Parkway Pantai has taken some steps to improve price transparency. I encourage the private sector to do more in this regard.  

Conclusion

15.    In closing, let me thank Parkway Pantai for its partnership in the various collaborations that it has with the Government.  I would like to thank the management of Mount Elizabeth Novena, in particular, for making the collaboration with Tan Tock Seng Hospital possible.   I understand from my staff that you have facilitated this in a spirit of collegiality.  

16.    Once again, let me congratulate the management and staff of Mount Elizabeth Novena on the official opening of the hospital today. I wish the hospital every success in delivering good quality and affordable care to your patients.

17.    Thank you.

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