Docs upset over bureaucracy

MANY specialist doctors in private practice are upset that they have to register all medical devices for clearance by the Health Sciences Autho-rity (HSA) before the items can be used here.

“Medical devices” cover thousands of items, including everything from bandages, digital blood pressure monitors and wheelchairs to condoms, catheters, contact lenses as well as sophisticated heart valves and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

Specialists say the HSA clearance, made necessary since the beginning of the year, can take several months and cost several thousand dollars.

This has made it both difficult and costlier to bring in new items and doctors say they have already run out of some supplies.

They think that the HSA – the government agency which regulates all medication, equipment and blood used here – is being unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Among those who spoke to The Sunday Times was prominent eye specialist Jerry Tan, who said that some devices are inexpensive and not used in large quantities, so it becomes too much of a bother to go through the entire HSA clearance process which includes providing detailed information from the manufacturer.

“These devices cost less than S$50 (RM121) and no company wants to register these devices for us as there is no profit to be made,” he said.

But if the devices stop coming into Singapore, he added, the result would be “a reduction of standard of care for the patient”.

The HSA, on its part, insists that the tightened regulation is meant to ensure patient safety.

Having met groups of private specialists and heard their complaints, it said it would review its charges and hold more discussions with the private specialists.

But Dr Raymond Chua, deputy group director of the HSA’s Health Products Regulation Group, told The Sunday Times: “We want to instil the sense of safety in doctors. You can’t quantify a cost to safety.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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