By allowing medical tourism to flourish while citizens deprived of healthcare, is irresponsibility by govt at the highest level

by Simon Lim

The news on Sunday that Ministry of Health (MOH) had put a stop to foreign patient referral contracts with local government hospitals must have shocked and angered many Singaporeans.

Unlike private hospitals, government hospitals operate using taxpayers’ monies and their first priority must always be directed towards Singaporeans’ healthcare interests and well-being. But now we know better. It is only natural to be angry if one considers that scarce resources such as hospital beds were diverted away for over a decade to serve the profit-driven agendas of the government.

In light of the realisation that foreign patients are diverted to Singapore’s public hospitals as medical tourists, one ought to recall scenes of the severe hospital bed crunch scenes in 2014 where many patients had to wait more than 24 hours and some over 48 hours before they are assigned a bed, temporarily placed in open spaces under big tents etc. Not forgetting too, the long waiting period to see doctors and specialists etc.

Medical tourism is not new and it is certainly a very lucrative business but it should be the pursuit of the private sector. If it is too lucrative a money-making opportunity to pass, the government could enter into some sort of joint venture agreements with the private hospitals.

But to use our public hospitals’ services and resources must be a clear “NO”!

Such form of revenue-seeking activities should not be carried by government hospitals whose resources are diverted away and competed between foreign medical tourists and Singaporeans. It is simply wrong, unethical and a betrayal of the trust that our citizens placed on the authorities to properly utilise tax money for the interest of the citizens.

We do not need paper generals or scholars to smoke us anymore to know that lucrative profits derived from medical tourism have blinded the People’s Action Party government’s eyes, blurring their sense of responsibility and their conscience and morality gone to the dogs.

This is the sorts of official judgement failures that I detest. In short, it is ministerial idiocy at the highest official level. One last question: Since this sort of lucrative arrangements have been going on for over a decade, what prompted MOH to put a sudden stop to it?