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Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in Singapore

Submitted: April 2014

Healthcare standards in Singapore are quite high. As treatment is generally provided with good value for money, many foreign nationals come to Singapore for medical tourism. According to the World Health Organisation 2000 ranking, Singapore has the 6th best healthcare system in the world.

In Singapore, doctors and hospitals are mostly private, though there are some hospitals owned by Government-owned corporations. Healthcare is largely financed through insurance, whether social or private insurance. Opting to pay the full amount out-of-pocket is possible for expats that do not require social insurance coverage. See National Health Services for Expats in Singapore.

As a rule, Singapore's health system is based on Western medicine. That being said, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is widely available as well.

If you are not happy with Singapore's healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave Singapore. In any event, you must go to a Singaporean hospital if you are in an emergency situation.

Fees (overview)

The cost of medical treatment in Singapore is quite low, especially if you compare it with the US or Hong Kong. The reason for this is because:

  • Healthcare charges in Government hospitals are regulated by the Ministry of Health
  • The Government actively regulates supply and demand in the private sector.

Therefore, many expats may find it worthwhile to get elective treatment during their stay in Singapore.

More information about the fee schedule can be found on the Ministry of Health website.

Finding a doctor

You should look for a good general practitioner (GP) in your local area as soon as possible. In Singapore, there are 18 polyclinics and 2,400 private doctor's practices.

Singaporeans generally go to private sector doctors for primary care services unless they are looking for subsidised treatment. In choosing the right doctor, seeking advice from informed friends or relatives will greatly help. In addition, feel free to:

  • check how many doctors and hospitals there are in your local area
  • check their opening hours, and patient feedback/satisfaction rate
  • ask your doctor if he has an out-of-hours service.

Specialist treatment

Specialist treatment is widely available in Singapore. Dentistry and mental health issues tend to be taken seriously by the healthcare system, even in Government hospitals. An overview of dentistry fees in Singapore can be found here.

It's perfectly fine to go straight to a specialist without prior GP referral. However, it's unlikely to be the most suitable option if you are looking for subsidised specialist treatment. In such cases, you might wish to consider going to a specialist clinic.

Hospital treatment

There are 13 private hospitals and 8 Government-owned hospitals in Singapore, plus various day surgery or specialist clinics. As a rule, Government hospitals are better prepared for acute care.

Government hospitals are subject to a classification from A1+ to C, A1+ being both the most sophisticated and expensive ward. Conversely, class C and B2 hospitals are the most subsidised. Recent experience shows some improvements in class C and B2 hospitals.

In practice, hospital charges may be higher for foreign nationals or SPRs notwithstanding the subsidy rate structure. Fee waivers may apply for the neediest, regardless of immigration status.

Prevention

Do take disease prevention matters very seriously when you come to Singapore. As the climate is equatorial, infections spread very quickly. It is strongly advisable to go out of your way to review your day-to-day habits for disease prevention purposes. Do not, for example, leave any bucket full of dormant water in your flat.

Advance Medical Directive (AMD)

You may be asked to consider signing an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) in Singapore. AMD is a legal document which states whether you are wish not to be given life-sustaining treatment in the event you become terminally ill and death is imminent.

There is no obligation to sign an AMD. If you do, two witnesses will be needed.

 

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