It was like a scene in a hospital ward in a third world country. But this was in the Changi General Hospital in Singapore, a country touted as one with excellent medical facilities.
The Straits Times Page One story and picture tell of a hospital that has gone to extradordinary lengths to meet an emergency bed crunch. It is housing patients waiting for beds in a large air-conditioned tent. Tan Tock Seng Hospital is putting them in beds on corridors of its wards.The hospital bed crunch is not new. Three years ago, when similar reports surfaced then Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan promised that Singapore will never be caught in such a predicament again.
What happened to the promise? And how did efficient Singapore get caught with its pants down in such an embarrassing way?
Dr Paul Tambyah told The Independent Singapore: “Hospital bed crunches … are a natural consequence of a healthcare model that depends to a large degree on payments from employers and patients. As such, there is a great reluctance to build “excess” or surge capacity. While “bed crunches” do occur in under-funded government systems without adequate resources, most developed countries with mandatory universal health insurance such as Germany or France traditionally do not have such problems.”