Private hospitals steadily losing local patients

PRIVATE hospitals in Singapore have been losing their share of local patients steadily over the past seven years. 

The downturn started during the 1997 financial crisis and the slide has continued since. 

A new Health Ministry report shows that in 1997, about 22% of Singaporeans needing inpatient treatment turned to private hospitals.  

By 2002, the proportion had dropped to about 16%. 

Private hospitals saw a similar decrease in the proportion of day surgery cases they handled, even though there was a huge increase in such procedures, as more turned to the public sector. 

All this translated into a plunge of about a quarter in private hospitals’ share of revenue from the medical pie.  

Ministry analyst Leslie Khoo, who wrote the report, blamed the drop on the 1997 financial crisis, which resulted in people reducing what they spent on health by turning to public hospitals where they could get government rebates. 

Until then, the private hospitals had been expanding their market share steadily every year. 

Between 1993 and 1996, their share of day surgery cases rose from 19.6% to 23.8% of the market. 

This nearly doubled what they were earning per thousand population, from S$4,685 (RM10,307) in 1993 to S$9,099 (RM21,997) in 1996. 

Their share of inpatients during this period grew more slowly, inching up 1.4%, but their revenue from such patients rose from S$69,203 (RM152,246) per thousand population in 1993 to S$89,975 (RM197,945) in 1996.  

To make up for their loss of local patients, private hospitals have been working to attract more patients from overseas in recent years.  

They have intensified these efforts following the strong government push to promote medical tourism here three months ago. 

Already, about 200,000 foreigners spend around S$450mil (RM990mil) here annually. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

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