By 2030, the number of people aged 65 years and older in Singapore will likely increase by more than 100% from 430,000 today to more than 900,000. As that is almost one-fifth of Singapore’s population, it would entail that more resources are needed for the local healthcare sector.

One way to do so is to reduce the wastage of A&E resources such as time and money by non-emergency patients visiting the A&E departments at hospitals.

How A&E resources are wasted

Changi General Hospital’s (CGH) Emergency Medicine Chief Mohan Tiru blames the phenomenon on the popular perception that hospitals are a place that can provide an extensive range of treatment and that they provide better care. In addition, the spokesman for Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) also mentioned that as their hospital is the only tertiary hospital in the northern area of Singapore, it becomes a convenient place for concerned residents who are looking for a prompt response to their medical problems. 

Patients are also unsure of the severity of their condition and are reluctant to incur additional fees at clinics if they are subsequently referred to hospitals. While doctors have been urging non-emergency patients to seek treatment at nearby clinics, the advice has largely fallen on deaf ears.

To cope with the increase in patient numbers, the two public hospitals Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and KTPH have increased their fees in the A&E department. This is to cope with rising costs and also possibly to dissuade non-emergency patients from visiting the A&E department unnecessarily.

Measures taken by the government

To further address this problem, the government introduced a scheme known as GPFirst a few years back that offers a SGD50 discount from the hospital bill if patients see a General Practitioner at nearby clinics first and then subsequently get referred to the hospital.

More recently from June 2015 to October last year, SGH and National University Hospital (NUH) have opted for physiotherapists to be on call for patients in the A&E department. Doctors first assess patients who report pain in their muscles or stiffness in their bodies.

Afterwards they can be referred to the physiotherapists for immediate treatment; the patients benefit from this because they do not have to wait for a few weeks for an outpatient appointment for physiotherapy. This frees up the time for doctors to attend to patients which require more urgent care. MIMS

Read more:
30,000 healthcare workers needed in Singapore as elderly population continues to grow
5 challenges Singapore’s polyclinic doctors face
6 types of specialised nurses needed for Singapore’s aging population

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