Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued notices to three clinics on suspicion of making Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) claims for consultations and treatments that were not performed.

Bedok Day & Night Clinic, Jurong Day & Night Clinic and MW Medical Centre at Cross Street will have their Chas accreditation suspended if satisfactory explanations to the MOH are not provided in two weeks.

MOH's audits of the clinics' claims have revealed that the three clinics have made numerous non-compliant Chas claims, including claims for consultations and treatment which were not performed.

These are the first GP clinics to face possible suspension from Chas. Previously, two dental clinics suspended Phoenix Dental Surgery clinics in Ang Mo Kio and Marine Parade for similar reasons and are now under police probe.

MOH warns doctors and clinics to comply with rules and guidelines

Chas is a scheme that provides subsidies for medical and dental care for Singaporeans from lower to middle-income households and Pioneer Generation citizens.

Introduced by the MOH in 2012, Chas provides subsidised care at about 950 GPs and 700 dental clinics to 1.3 million Singaporeans who hold Chas or Pioneer Generation cards. Clinics with Chas accreditation suspended will not be able to submit Chas claims on behalf of their patients, but doctors at the clinics can continue to provide medical treatment.

MOH said it takes a serious view of such errant practices and have referred the cases to the police. Doctors suspected of being involved have also been referred to the Singapore Medical Council for further investigations.

Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, MOH’s director of medical services, said: “The majority of our Chas clinics comply with the rules and guidelines. When there are cases of significant non-compliance, MOH will not hesitate to take action.”

Change in ethical rules and guidelines have yet to be accepted

Previously GPs and dentists were not required to tell patients how much their total bills were. In many cases, as patients need not pay or paid only a small amount, there were not many complaints.

For pioneers who received the highest subsidies, Chas pays up to SGD28.50 per GP visit for common ailments and as much as SGD135 for more complex problems.

The ministry still received approximately 300 complaints, largely about incorrect billing or high fees, between 2013 and 2015. In a bid to tighten the system, all Chas clinics have been requested to provide patients with itemised bills, even if patients need not pay a cent, from this year onwards.

Professor Ong reminded doctors that they should "always act in the best interest of the patient" and that they "cannot abuse the doctor-patient relationship for personal gain". MIMS

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