Global Health Asia-Pacific Special Issue - Page 64

Singapore

Singapore eyes medical tourism rebound and plans to beef up its healthcare

“ Singapore healthcare holds a strong reputation in quality service and a high concentration of specialists . Its position as an excellent travel hub with transport links to all over the world further complements its accessibility to travellers .”

The Lion City has managed to navigate the pandemic with one of the lowest death rates among high-income nations and has quickly reopened its borders to visitors , paving the way for an early rebound in medical tourism arrivals . With the health emergency under control , Singapore is now pondering how to be better prepared for future pandemics and how to improve the health of its citizens with more targeted preventive approaches .

We sat down with the CEOs of three prominent private hospitals to better understand where the city ’ s healthcare is heading .
Mount Elizabeth Hospitals : Leading Singapore ’ s medical tourism recovery Like some of their peers , Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital recorded a surge in foreign healthcare travellers following the reopening of Singapore ’ s borders .
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital CEO Dr Peter Chow attributed Singapore ’ s attraction as an ideal medical tourism destination to its strong branding in medical technology and expertise . “ Singapore healthcare holds a strong reputation in quality service and a high concentration of specialists . Its position as an excellent travel hub with transport links to all over the world further complements its accessibility to travellers ,” he said . Dr Chow added that this competitive advantage was augmented by the country ’ s commendable management of the pandemic which saw a synchronised response to COVID-19 by the healthcare sector and the community . This has led to Singapore ’ s handling of the pandemic being praised by the international community and enabled the country to be the first in the region to open its borders completely . Mount Elizabeth Hospital CEO Yong Yih Ming said he saw a significant rebound in international healthcare tourists originating from traditional markets such as Indonesia , Cambodia , and Vietnam .
The CEOs view the long-term prospects of Singapore ’ s healthcare sector as generally optimistic . Dr Chow said that the growing ageing population in the region would ensure the continuous growth of quality healthcare in various areas , such as hospital services , primary care , senior care , preventive and diagnostic services , rehabilitation , and healthcare technology . Yong anticipated that more care would be delivered outside the hospital over time . “ We expect that patient care will be provided by primary care practitioners in the community so that hospitals ’ resources can be better utilised for higher acuity care ,” he said .
Singapore ’ s health tourism industry has many advantages over its Thailand and Malaysian counterparts . Dr Chow highlighted that healthcare travellers considered the quality and transparency of Singapore ’ s healthcare sector in tandem with a solid regulatory framework as highly significant . “ Singapore has also been a destination for immigration and foreign talent seeking employment , and this presents opportunities for Singapore to be recommended to their family or friends in their home countries to come to Singapore for medical treatment ,” he added . Yong acknowledged the Ministry of Health ’ s effective regulations , which he believes have contributed to the country ’ s strong track record and success rates over the years . He explained that private hospitals were also more accustomed to caring for foreign patients and had other value-added services , such as interpreters and personalised butler services , which can significantly improve a patient ’ s care experience .
While Singapore experienced its fair share of public health challenges and setbacks in managing the pandemic , the island nation recorded one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates among developed countries . Yong said this was possible due to strict pandemic management protocols implemented consistently across healthcare institutions . “ Protocols such as patient and visitor testing regimes , visitor management routine , staff isolation , and personal protective equipment guidelines evolved along with pandemic requirements over time ,” he elaborated . Yong credited the early and quick vaccination of healthcare workers and the general public for the
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