SINGAPORE — Three years ago, in 2019, the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) was ranked the third-best hospital in the world by Newsweek magazine. It came behind two American hospitals, the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
At the time, Newsweek said SGH provides “affordable care for patients, leads patient-driven clinical research and provides undergraduate to postgraduate educational training for both students and medical professionals”.
Straits Times spared no effort running the story with the eye-catching title, “SGH beats Johns Hopkins and University of Tokyo hospitals in world ranking.”
It even quoted SGH’s CEO Prof Kenneth Kwek saying, “We are humbled to be recognised for our medical and nursing care.”
“Our staff are passionate about healthcare and we continually challenge ourselves to do better for our patients, their family members and our staff,” he added.
Thereafter, SGH’s ranking started going down.
So, in three years, SGH’s ranking fell from 3rd to 12th. So far, Straits Times has not mentioned about the drop in SGH’s ranking.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the delay in securing a hospital bed has been exceptionally long, with some patients having to wait several days before being moved from the Emergency Department to a ward.
For example, in October, Ms Evelyn Lim brought her 73-year-old mother to SGH for suspected internal bleeding.
She told the media that it took nearly 20 hours before her mother was admitted to a ward. While waiting for an available bed, her mother was put up at the hospital’s Ambulatory Surgery Centre.
“It was very crowded and noisy there and from what I could see, there were a lot of patients with their beds pushed closely to one another and it spilled over to the main walkways as well,” said Ms Lim.
According to government data, there were 15,564 beds at hospitals in 2020. During that period, there were a recorded number of 5.69 million residents, which gives us a ratio of 2.74 (2.74 beds per 1000 pax).
Based on the information from MOH, we see that the occupancy rate for Singapore’s public hospitals is mostly at above 90 per cent occupancy.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Audit Office, the bed occupancy rate is deemed efficient at 85% and recommended not to exceed 90%.
At a ratio of 2.74 in 2020, Singapore fares slightly better than its neighbouring countries, Malaysia (2.01, 2020) and Indonesia (1.49, 2021), but it fares considerably worse than other Asian countries such as Japan (12.63, 2021), South Korea (12.65, 2020) and Taiwan (7.3, 2021).
It bears noting that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in India highlights that global standards recommend 5 hospital beds for every 1000 people.
This standard is said to be meant for district hospitals — India had 5 beds per 10,000 in 2020. At the same time, the OECD average was 5 beds per 1000 in 2018.