SingaporeGovernment does not lose 'millions of dollars' from class A wards, NUHS...

Government does not lose ‘millions of dollars’ from class A wards, NUHS refutes Prof Paul Tambyah

The National University Health System (NUHS) on Thursday (Dec 29) refuted a claim by Professor Paul Tambyah that the Government loses “millions of dollars” from operating class A hospital wards.

Prof Tambyah, a senior consultant in NUH’s division of infectious diseases made the claim in a TikTok video posted on Dec 19. The video has been viewed more than 72,000 times.

Prof Tambyah, who is also the Chairman of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), argued that class A wards in public hospitals should be removed because they provided “huge subsidies” to wealthy foreigners hospitalised in Singapore.

Singaporeans and permanent residents receive subsidies of up to 80 per cent at class B2/C wards in public hospitals. Class A wards are unsubsidised. There are no subsidies for foreign patients regardless of ward class.

Prof Tambyah said: “Wealthy foreign patients in A class wards pay a rate which is much lower than what they would pay in the private hospitals in Singapore. Thus, if you use the (Housing and Development Board’s) way of calculating a market subsidy, they are receiving huge subsidies and the Government is actually losing millions of dollars by having A class patients.”

In the video, Prof Tambyah said that “getting rid of the A class patients” would help the Government “to stop losing those millions of dollars that they’re losing, and to end the market subsidies that they’re providing for wealthy foreigners who could otherwise go to the private sector”.

“The Government should basically not compete with the private sector,” he added.

He also refuted the idea, aired by another TikTok user, that the Government earns revenue through class A wards to subsidise other wards and retain good doctors in public hospitals.

“The reason why senior doctors stay in the public sector is not because of money. It’s primarily because they love research, teaching and looking after poor Singaporeans … depending on making profits out of A class patients to cross-subsidise is just not going to work.”

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NUHS refuted Prof Tambyah’s claims in a Facebook post on 29 Dec, saying that his personal views did not represent the views of NUHS and its institutions.

“The different ward classes within the public hospitals are designed to provide Singaporeans a wider range of options. Foreign patients make up a very small number of patients we see,” said the post.

“Contrary to what was shared in the video, we do not make a loss by operating Class A wards. As part of the public healthcare system, our priority is to care for Singaporeans and ensure that they have access to good and affordable healthcare,” it added.

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NUHS however, did not address Prof Tambyah’s claim: “Wealthy foreign patients in A class wards pay a rate which is much lower than what they would pay in the private hospitals in Singapore.” This is what he claimed is, “(Housing and Development Board’s) way of calculating a market subsidy”.

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