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Paul Tambyah says Ong Ye Kung will face huge challenges and Singapore healthcare system is under significant stress

Life expectancy gap between Singaporeans with secondary education and post-secondary education

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Singapore — Incoming Health Minister Ong Ye Kun will face “huge challenges” because the “Singapore healthcare system is under significant stress”, says Dr Paul Tambyah in a Facebook post.

Dr Tambyah, chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party, is also a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the US-based International Society of Infectious Diseases.

He expressed his concern about the Singapore health system in reply to an article by Lianhe Zaobao.

My full response to Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报 for this article published today…

Posted by Paul Tambyah on Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Zaobao article was titled “Ong Ye Kung to lead us out of this pandemic: must promote development of medical treatment”. The article said that the medical professionals interviewed believe that the new health minister must lead the country through the crisis of the epidemic, and at the same time promote medical transformation and respond to urgent challenges such as an ageing population.

In his Facebook post, Dr Thambya wrote that “Ministry of Health (MOH) data shows that the bed occupancy is consistently at or above maximum levels for patient safety”, with bed occupancy rates hitting as high as 95 per cent in Tan Tock Seng hospital between April 14 and April 16. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines published in 2017, occupancy rates should not exceed 90 per cent in order to facilitate optimal patient flow.

“While much of this is due to overpopulation from the misguided immigration policies, a large part of this is caused by the overly complex healthcare financing system,” Dr Tambya wrote, pointing out the need for citizens to buy their own healthcare insurance plans despite the existence of national health insurance scheme MediShield Life.

Dr Tambyah noted the increasing inequality in Singapore, cautioning that Singapore is “approaching the level of the United States which probably has the most dysfunctional system in the high-income world”.

Outgoing Health Minister Mr Gan Kim Yong revealed in Parliament that there is a striking five-and-a-half-year gap in life expectancy between Singaporeans aged up to 25  with secondary education and their peers with post-secondary education.

It was revealed that “men with below secondary education level were 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes, 1.2 times more likely to have hypertension and 1.2 times more likely to have high cholesterol, as compared to those with post-secondary education. For women with below secondary education level, the chances were 1.5 times for diabetes, 1.7 times for hypertension, and 1.4 times for high cholesterol compared to those with post-secondary education.” according to the reply by the MOH.

Dr Tambyah urged these issues be addressed, or the gaps in our society will only widen.

He also wrote that the SDP proposed a national universal healthcare scheme, which is simple and based on a single-payer system. His party would be happy to meet Minister Ong to explain it to him and suggest ways to overhaul the healthcare system and meet the basic healthcare needs of all Singaporeans, he added.

Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG

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