Mitigating the capacity crunch- Whither the private sector?

The incongruence between demand and supply in the public sector is widening, but tapping on the private sector does not seem to be a policy option that is first, or even, second-in-mind. There is still a strongly entrenched view that doctors, once out of the public sector, do not and cannot contribute to the public healthcare mission.

This is a false dichotomy and damaging to all. We need to discard these unhelpful mental models and embrace what DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam describes as the need for “all hands on deck”? When will we be desperate enough?

Published on Apr 03, 2013, Straits Times Forum

Health care: Do more to tap private sector talent

THERE is an element of irony in Monday’s letters (“Address issue of doctors leaving the public sector” by Ms Ada Chan Siew Foen, and “Polyclinics doing the best they can” by Mr Rajasegaran Ramasamy).

The first called for the Government to do more to retain doctors in the public sector, while the second praised the Community Health Assist Scheme for enabling Singaporeans to consult private general practitioners (GPs) at subsidised prices, and encouraged elderly patients to take advantage of the scheme and be treated at participating GP clinics.

Clearly, doctors in the private sector can and do contribute to the health of the nation.

As the Government undertakes a review of the health-care system, perhaps it is timely to examine more critically, without any preconceived notions or biases, how Singaporeans can benefit from better engagement of the private sector, where almost half of fully registered medical practitioners practise.

Yes, the public sector needs its fair share of medical talent, but creating and reinforcing deep chasms between the public and private sectors is unhelpful in optimising our already overstrained health-care system.

Needlessly competing for manpower by offering ever higher salaries runs the risk of wage spirals that hurt lower-income Singaporeans even more.

The Community Health Assist Scheme is a very good start to harnessing the resources and talent in the private sector to benefit Singaporeans, and expansion of the concept into specialist care should be the next step.

Jeremy Lim (Dr)


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