The Singapore healthcare system serves as the healthcare and medical hub of the Asia Pacific Region.
It is reputable for having the latest medical and clinical research to support the ongoing demand for an efficient healthcare system. Also, the Singapore healthcare system offers first class healthcare services and facilities to both its citizens and the international patient market. This is no wonder why the Singapore healthcare system is so popular with the expat population.
The Singapore healthcare system has consistently been ranked as one of the best in the world, whether it is in terms of accessibility or the quality of healthcare services provided. In fact, Singapore was ranked number one in terms of meeting the United Nations health goals and for its healthcare readiness in 2016.
Healthcare is an important consideration when you are thinking of moving to another country because not all countries or cities have medical clinics at every corner like Singapore does.
Some essential things to consider include:
- where is the nearest clinic/pharmacy/hospital from your home
- nearby medical services (such as dental services)
- eligibility for financial support + how to apply
- government subsidies and whether you qualify for them
Let us now walk you through the Singapore healthcare system and the different types of healthcare services provided.
Ministry of Health (MOH)
MOH is the Singapore government’s presiding healthcare body responsible for formulating policies for the development and regulation of all healthcare products and services. It plays a crucial role in ensuring every individual has access to basic healthcare services at the minimum, and that the healthcare products and services offered are made affordable, accessible and of top quality.
The MOH emphasised strongly on a customised and integrated healthcare approach when dealing with individuals of different needs. Ultimately, the goals of the MOH is to improve the healthcare system. In addition, the agency also wishes to promote a healthy and active lifestyle amongst Singaporeans.
Public healthcare in Singapore
The public healthcare in Singapore consists of three main clusters: National University Health System (NUHS), National Healthcare Group (NHG) and SingHealth. These clusters work closely with the MOH in various ways to deliver the best healthcare services to its citizens.
There are 12 medical facilities under the NUHS cluster that cater more to the West side of Singapore (e.g. Jurong). There are also 12 medical facilities under the NHG which includes the country’s only psychiatric hospital. SingHealth, on the other hand, consists of 11 public hospitals and all community polyclinics across Singapore.
For more information on NUHS, click here.
More information on NHG, click here.
For more information on SingHealth, click here.
Private healthcare in Singapore
Private healthcare in Singapore is becoming an increasingly popular choice even among the locals despite the high cost. There are many factors contributing to this rise in popularity. For instance, the short waiting time and luxurious hotel room-esque wards may be attractive to patients who can afford it. Hospitals in Singapore also generally boast a personalised doctor-patient relationship, as private doctors are able to spend more time with each patient.
Non-PR expats will not be eligible for any government healthcare subsidies. Hence, it is especially important for expats to have private health insurance to avoid exorbitant medical fees. Given that the cost of private and public healthcare in Singapore doesn’t differ much for expats, there is a general trend for expats to choose the former.
The primary benefit of private healthcare is the speed to which treatment and medical attention can be dealt out. As compared to public healthcare, you are able to receive medical attention almost instantly. Given, of course, that the hospital or clinic has available slots. That being said, the waiting time for public healthcare in Singapore is considered very short when compared to other countries in the world – for instance, the waiting time for non-emergency treatments in the UK can be up to 18 weeks under the NHS!
According to the Singapore Ministry of Health’s statistics on the waiting times at public Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments, two hospitals saw a waiting time of about an hour while the average for others is about three hours. On the other hand, the admission waiting time for a private hospital is usually no more than an hour.
Types of healthcare services in Singapore
Primary healthcare services (Subsidised Polyclinics and private General Practitioners)
Patients usually seek primary care from the outpatient polyclinics and clinics run by private General Practitioners (GP) as their first point of contact.
Since GP clinics are private, they are often more expensive than the subsidised polyclinics in the community. However, MOH has been working with these groups of professionals in recent years to ensure that quality medical care support is still made affordable to the people.
Common services that these clinics provide include outpatient medical treatments, immunisation, health screening and education and pharmaceutical services. Should the patient require additional clinical attention or further diagnosis, they will be referred to a specialist. These specialists usually work in either a hospital or a specialist centre.
There are currently 22 polyclinics and 1,800 GP clinics across the city so no matter where you stay, seeking medical help won’t be too far off the stretch.
Access the list of polyclinics here.
Hospital services (General, community and private hospitals)
Hospital care in Singapore includes a whole range of inpatient and outpatient services that caters to the needs of different individuals.
There are currently 11 public hospitals, including nine general hospitals, a womens’ and childrens’ hospital and a psychiatric hospital. Patients have the option to choose from a nine, six, five or four-bed ward, or even opt for a private hospital room in a public hospital, though the price will certainly be much higher.
Community hospitals, on the other hand, focus on providing care to patients who require a period of time for recovery from an illness or accident after being discharged from a general hospital.
They offer not just outpatient services, but also a whole range of medical specialties that includes advanced surgical procedures. Along with a variety of other private medical centres, patients can be assured with an excellent level of medical care and service levels.
National specialty centres
There are six national specialist centres in Singapore:
- The National Skin Centre
- Singapore National Dental Centre
- National Heart Centre
- National Eye Centre
- Singapore National Cancer Centre
- National Neuroscience Institute
While most public hospitals do offer some of these care services, patients who need more sophisticated medical treatments will be referred to these centres. This allows patients to have the most comprehensive treatment with the expertise of doctors from the respective specialties.
Eligibility for Covid-19 vaccinations
This is especially important if you’re an expat moving to Singapore but have not gotten your dose of vaccination yet. To prevent the spread of the virus and protect every individual, Singapore’s government is relatively strict on its travel and vaccination measures.
If you’re a Singapore citizen, PR or long-term pass holder aged 12 and above, you can visit any vaccination centres, polyclinics and participating clinics without making a prior appointment to get your vaccination.
Expats who are under the Training Employment Pass (TEP), Training Work Permit (TWP), Work Holiday Pass (WHP) and the Special Pass holders and meet the age requirements are allowed to walk into any of the vaccination centres without making an appointment to get your vaccination.
Short-Term Visit Pass (STVP) holders who are eligible and have valid phone numbers registered with the Government will receive an SMS from MOH with a link to book their appointments as walk-ins are not allowed. STVPs with valid pass extensions but did not receive any SMS from the government may submit supporting documents and request an appointment using this form.
For other latest updates from MOH regarding Covid-19, the vaccination procedures and eligibility criteria, click here.
Average cost of healthcare in Singapore
Thanks to the universal public healthcare in Singapore, Singaporeans can enjoy quality services at an affordable price. This is because healthcare is heavily funded by the government. The government provides schemes such as Medisave, Medishield Life and Medifund. Do note that a significant private healthcare sector remains active in the country.
With these schemes in place, it is actually possible for patients to not pay a cent after treatment! The average fee for a general medical consultation under public healthcare ranges from $14 (after subsidy) for Singapore citizens to nearly $55 (with no subsidy) for a non-resident residing in Singapore. Public hospitals, such as the general and community hospitals, are higher in costs as compared to a clinic.
The price range for a Singapore citizen in a community hospital ranges upwards from $148 per day (after subsidy). Comparatively, a non-resident residing in Singapore might pay upwards of $770 per day (without subsidies). This price is affected by several factors such as the type of treatment, length of stay and class of ward chosen.
Always remember to look up the estimated fees before proceeding with any medical treatments. You could either call up the hospital of choice or browse their website for more information regarding pricing. This will help you make an informed decision and allow you to weigh your options.
The MOH also updates the public and private treatment fee benchmarks regularly, which gives patients an estimate of how much they should expect to pay for medical treatments including major surgeries.
Healthcare schemes and subsidies
As a PR of Singapore, you are eligible for government subsidies of up to 80 percent at public hospitals. (Do note that this applies only for B2/C wards.) The types of schemes and subsidies that may be applicable to eligible expats who are PRs include:
- Vaccination and Childhood Developmental Screening Subsidies
- MediShield Life
- CareShield Life
- Subsidies for Services and Drugs at public healthcare institutions
- Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Levy Concession For Persons with Disabilities
- Caregivers Training Grant (CTG)
- Subsidies for Government-funded Intermediate and Long Term Care Services
- Enhanced Screen For Life
*For more information, head over to each site for more information on your eligibility and the application process.
Unfortunately, non-PR expats will not be able to enjoy the privileges of having medical subsidies for public healthcare. In addition, non-PR expats are also not allowed to join the healthcare savings account system.
This is why many expats who are residing in Singapore for a temporary period tend to opt for an international insurance policy which offers coverage at public or private facilities.
What’s the next step?
After gaining some knowledge about the Singapore healthcare system and how it works, it is necessary to know what’s the maximum coverage you can get, depending on your status in Singapore. Start thinking about the international healthcare coverage both you, and your family, might require for a move.
A good place to start is at the workplace. Find out if your employer provides you (and your dependents) some basic form of medical coverage. This is especially important if you are moving to Singapore for work-related purposes. From there, you can gauge any additional coverage you might need.