Hospitals in Singapore are rated as efficient and world-class. Medical technology used is advanced and the healthcare practitioners are well qualified. As a result, medical tourism in Singapore is among the top in the region and foreigners visit from all over to receive medical treatment. However, since the healthcare is so highly rated overall, what then are the differences one might expect between private and public hospitals?
Singaporeans can generally enjoy lower costs for treatment or stays at public hospitals (subject to eligibility criteria). On the other hand, one has to pay a premium to enjoy the exclusivity and premium service of private hospitals.
Room Charges vs Amenities and Luxury of Rooms
Let’s take Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as an example for comparison. SGH is our flagship public hospital in Singapore and its cheapest ward (Type C) starts from $37 a day. This ward has a total of 8 beds per room. Moving up a few classes, a Standard Type B1 ward costs from about $266 per day. B1 gets you 4 beds to a room, attached bathroom and toilet, and semi-automated electric bed. The highest grade – Type A, costs from $535 per day. Type A is single bed, and comes with additional amenities such as fully automated electric bed (instead of semi-automated), and a sleeper unit for accompanying adult. Government subsidies as high as 80% are available for citizens staying in Type B2 and C wards.
SGH has a handy virtual tour of their wards here.
In comparison, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, is a premier private hospital in Singapore. Their room rate for a 4-bedded room is $291 per day. The cost for a single-bedded room goes up to $749 per day. Each patient will be entitled to a television with 8 different channels, toiletries, and free Wi-Fi. But for those who wish to recuperate in ultimate luxury, Mount Elizabeth offers a Royal Suite that is truly fit for royalty. Not only is this suite furnished with the finest amenities, patients will also have a butler service to attend to their needs. The en-suite bathroom even comes with luxury toiletries and a bathtub. The cost of staying in this suite? It is from $5,988 (160 time more than for a Type C ward at SGH).
Take a virtual tour of the Royal Suite here.
Medical Treatment Fees
Medical Treatment fees are unsurprisingly higher at private hospitals too. For instance, based on MOH’s Historical Transacted Bill Sizes and Fee Benchmark, a day-operation procedure for the removal of pre-cancerous tissue from the cervix cost an average of $1,191 with subsidy at a public hospital. In a private hospital, this cost an average of $7,715.
Another area of significant difference between public and private hospitals would be the average expected waiting time between seeing a doctor at the emergency department to being admitted to the hospital. In private hospitals, the waiting time would typically be an hour or less. In public hospitals, depending on the hospital, waiting times may vary from as low as 1 hour, to over 20 hours. MOH’s tabulation of waiting times can be referenced here.
Patients may also typically expect to wait less to take medical tests and diagnostic scans as well at private hospitals, compared to public hospitals. This can be crucial for treatment of serious illnesses such as late stage cancer. As an anecdote to illustrate the advantage of private hospitals in this regard, a relative who was recently warded at a private hospital for cancer actually had diagnostic scans done while on her way to the ward after seeing the doctor. There was no need to wait hours or days to do the scans.
Quality of Medical Care
Experience of Doctors
While there is no doubting of the quality of doctors in public hospitals in Singapore, they tend to be newer and less experienced. On the other hand, doctors in private hospitals may be more experienced, as a number would have moved out from the public healthcare system and into private practice.
State of the Art Equipment
The public healthcare system in Singapore bears the responsibility of providing good, but affordable healthcare for the general public. Private hospitals however, do not have this constraint. This gives them the flexibility to procure the best equipment, whereas those in the public institutions may tend to be more cost effective in nature. Thus, patients can expect to find private hospitals to be better equipped with the latest medical technologies than their public sector counterparts.
Public Vs Private Hospitals In Singapore: Which Is Better?
The differences between public and private hospitals largely boil down to lower cost at public hospitals vs luxury of accommodation, shorter wait times, more experienced doctors, and better equipment at private hospitals.
Whether one is better than the other depends on our personal financial circumstances and evaluation criteria. The benefits of seeking treatment at private hospitals are considerable but come at a cost. For those who are able to bear these additional costs, private healthcare might well be the better option. For those for whom finances is a more critical consideration, the cost effectiveness of public healthcare might make public hospitals the better choice instead. Either way, we can be assured of (and be grateful for) the quality of healthcare provide in both public and private hospitals in Singapore.
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.