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How to cut waiting times at polyclinics

Patients at the pharmacy of Bukit Merah Polyclinic.
Saturday, Feb 01, 2014
The Straits Times

The long wait to see a doctor at the polyclinic is indeed frustrating ("Five-hour wait at polyclinic" by Mr Christopher Chong; Forum Online, Monday).

Extending the Community Health Assist Scheme to more needy Singaporeans is a sensible move that has helped shift some patients from polyclinics to private clinics.

Further traction can be gained by giving more subsidies to patients who make the switch.

As a further measure to prevent abuse, means testing can be applied to polyclinic patients such that those who can afford it should be made to pay in full for services rendered.

Although a parliamentary committee had last year proposed that patients referred by general practitioners to hospitals should enjoy the same subsidies as those referred by polyclinics, no action has been taken so far ("Allow wider use of Medisave: Panel"; Aug 14, 2013).

The difference in rates can be substantial and this dissuades patients from seeking treatment from general practitioners.

Also, while the authorities encourage employers to recognise medical certificates from private doctors, such exhortations have little legal bite and are often ignored by even institutions such as the Singapore Armed Forces.

This compels more employees to visit polyclinics despite the long waiting time.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of patients seen per hour at polyclinics is low.

Perhaps providing a monetary incentive - cynical as it may sound - tied to the number of patients seen can ensure faster patient turnover at polyclinics.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)


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