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A tale of two public healthcare systems

I lived in Hong Kong from 2004 to 2007 and experienced its public healthcare system during my pregnancy there.

Sharifah Gamar Alam Albahar

I lived in Hong Kong from 2004 to 2007 and experienced its public healthcare system during my pregnancy there.

A private hospital charged S$6,000 to S$12,000 for delivery, including hospital stay, and separate payments for antenatal check-ups. Many patients were from higher income brackets and those who had maternity insurance.

In contrast, the public sector provided free antenatal check-ups. A normal delivery with hospital stay cost S$70-S$100. There was no income ceiling that disqualified me, and I was only a Hong Kong resident, not a citizen.

I was, however, prepared for poor service and inefficiencies due to the low cost. But this was not the case. Qualified midwives and nurses ensured that mother and baby were progressing well at the monthly antenatal check-ups. I was in and out of the polyclinic in 45 minutes.

When I went into labour, the anaesthetist who administered the epidural, the midwife who delivered my son and all the nurses were highly professional.

I stayed two nights in an eight-bed ward with fans, the food was not great, but for what I was about to pay, I could not complain. I had a breastfeeding consultant assist me, my son was vaccinated and the final bill amounted to an astonishing S$75.

The hospital called a week later to check on how I was doing and reminded me of follow-up appointments for myself and my son’s vaccinations, which were again free.

Hong Kong and Singapore are comparable in many ways. Both cities have similar income tax structures. Singapore’s revenue streams are many.

I am sure that more healthcare subsidies to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents would be possible without compromising on service standards and professionalism, and without being a huge financial burden to the State.

Bold steps should be taken to make public healthcare more affordable.

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