People walk across the Cavenagh bridge at the financial district in Singapore. The city-state now focuses on attracting more international patients to its world-class hospitals. Photo: AFP
As the global recession hits Singapore's manufacturing and shipping business, the government of the city-state now focuses on attracting more international patients to its world-class hospitals with competitive price offer to help maintain its economy.
“Singapore has fixed the target of attracting 1 million international patients annually by 2012,” said Dr Tyrone Goh, executive director of National Health Group, a leader in public healthcare in Singapore.
The cost of healthcare in Singapore is 50 to 100 percent lower than that in the USA and UK, he told a group of journalists of different countries during their recent visit to Singapore. Singapore Tourism Board arranged the media trip.
“We don't believe in the best and latest building only. At the end, it's the care, compassion and environment around that,” said Stuart D Rowley, chief executive officer of Prince Court Medical Centre in Singapore.
The country has already become the leading healthcare services hub in the region by providing globally accredited services to the international patients.
Of the 19 hospitals and national healthcare centres in Singapore, 13 are considered public sector facilities. Although wholly owned by the government, they operate as private entities to achieve the efficiency of the private sector.
Most of the hospitals are accredited by Joint Commission International that provides recognition for international healthcare standards.
In 2006, around 410,000 patients travelled to the country to get healthcare services, showing tremendous potential of the sector in Singapore, a state free of political chaos.
Most international patients visiting Singapore for healthcare are from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Middle East countries. Patients from the developed countries like the USA and UK also come to the medical hub.
“Patients choose Singapore because the service here is faster, better and cheaper. Clinical outcome in our hospitals is excellent,” said Tyrone Goh.
This is the reason why global recession has not affected the healthcare sector of Singapore although it hit the manufacturing and shipping sectors prompting the government to unveil a multi-billion-dollar plan to boost spending and cut taxes.
Singapore has slashed its 2009 growth forecast, saying its economy could shrink by as much as five percent since the global demand for the country's exports fell.
Healthcare specialists in Singapore said the global economic crisis is prompting people to save more money, but healthcare cannot be avoided. People will certainly seek cheap rate with quality medical services.
“Demand and overseas interest in Singapore healthcare is growing,” Stuart D Rowley told journalists on the sidelines of Global Healthcare Congress 2009 organised by International Medical Travel Association from February 23-26.
Josef Woodman, president of Healthy Travel Media, said: “As healthcare service in Singapore is cheaper, patients from the developed countries are also preferring to come here.”
He said not only Singapore, other Asian countries such as Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and India are also becoming important destinations for the patients from Europe and the US.