Singapore has worst patient-doctor ratio: report

21 Feb 07

Singapore has the worst patient-to-doctor ratio among developed countries and has embarked on a global effort to entice doctors, a report said Wednesday.

Top health ministry officials went to Australia and London last year to convince Singaporean doctors studying or working there to return, and to encourage top foreign doctors to practise in Singapore, the Straits Times said.

It quoted the health ministry’s permanent secretary Yong Ying I, who was dispatched to London last year, as saying Singapore has the worst patient-to-doctor ratio among developed countries.

“We have very efficient doctors and they work very hard. But somewhere along the way we also don’t have enough,” the newspaper quoted Yong as saying.

“If you want to bring down waiting times, we need to recruit more doctors, much more than a few percent.”

The city-state is faced with an ageing population but is also seeking to bolster its role as a top provider of quality healthcare services for patients from abroad.

Singapore, Southeast Asia’s most advanced economy, had a population of about 4.4 million with 6,748 doctors registered in 2005, according to official statistics.

The goal is to have one doctor per patient in public hospitals, up from a ratio of one per every two, the report said.

The country needs to produce 400-600 locally trained doctors annually, up from the current level of more than 200, the paper quoted Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan as saying.

Khaw cautioned that “much as we will try to recruit as many as we can, we will be lucky to half-succeed,” which was why he sent his top two ministry officials to scout for doctors abroad, the report said.

Read how MM Lee Kuan Yew boasted about Singapore’s healthcare system:

“We run a (healthcare) system where you have to co-pay…but you get the attention…In Singapore, within half-an-hour, you would be in SGH (Singapore General Hospital), TTSH (Tan Tock Seng Hospital)…and within one-and-a-half to two hours flat, you’d know what went wrong.”

– MM Lee Kuan Yew on the state of Singapore hospitals after his wife was flown home from London after suffering a stroke there, Today, Nov 3, 2003

Now read about the reality:

My dad was sent to the A&E department three times in two months because of stroke and, each time, my family had to wait at least six hours before he was pushed to a ward…When my dad finally got to the ward, it was past 2am. And we had arrived at the A&E department about 7pm; it took more than six hours before my dad was seen by a neurologist. If my dad had been taken to the ward earlier and been treated by a neurologist, his chances of living might be higher…The neurologist told us that my dad had the worst kind of stroke anyone could get. Sadly, he was pronounced brain dead the next day.

– Ms Tan Tze Yee, author of the above letter, Straits Times Forum, Aug 18, 2005

Recently, my father, who is in his late 70s and has multiple illnesses and end-stage renal failure, had to wait seven hours for a bed at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). We were told that as no bed was available, he would be placed in the observation ward first. This had happened many times before and we were prepared to wait for one to two hours for a bed for him…However, it was not until seven hours later that he was wheeled into the ward. During this time, no doctor came to see him.

– Ms Rodziah Shaari, author of the above letter, Straits Times Forum, Aug 13, 2005

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