Sengkang Free Clinic: A Healthcare Model for the Whole of Singapore

The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia had reported that the “residents in the Sengkang-Punggol area had raised concerns to their MPs during Meet-the-People sessions, about rising health-care costs and the need for affordable medical services.” As such, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had shared that the Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution was thus opened in Sengkang to “fulfill the needs of residents in the area”. It “expects to serve mainly lower-income residents” and “offers free medical treatment for all”, though “the facility can treat a maximum of 200 patients daily”.

The move to set up a free clinic is a commendable move by the government, albeit a localized move which only caters to the residents of Sengkang. The people have feedback on the rising costs of healthcare and the government responded by providing healthcare for free – for the “lower-income residents”, in line with the government’s aim of providing targeted interventions.

It would be good for this model to be expanded and replicated in other estates as well.

  1. The people in Singapore have also highlighted their concerns about rising and less affordable healthcare costs.
  2. From a broad planning perspective, what is a more holistic strategy to ensure that the needs of the low-income residents are met on a national level, and not just at a localised level? Will the government look into nationalising this free service into other locales to provide for the lower-income residents?
  3. Is there a more sustainable way of ensuring that the healthcare needs of the low-income residents are met in the longer term as well? In terms of the coverage of the population, the clinic caters to 200 patients daily. Does this meet the overall load of low-income residents in Sengkang who require this service? Can the provision of the free service be calibrated to ensure adequate provision for all low-income residents in Sengkang? This question would apply to the rest of Singapore as well.
  4. The other question on sustainability is on cost and accessibility to services. Will the free clinic be able to meet all the healthcare needs of the low-income residents? Does it provide all services, such as for operations? If it doesn’t, is there a need to ensure that the health policies enshrine the values behind the setting up of the clinic – to provide care for the low-income residents in Singapore at a low or free cost, and which is not restricted within the operations of this clinic, but available on a policy and administrative levels, at all healthcare institutions?

It is commendable that the government has effectively responded to the healthcare needs and cost concerns of Singaporeans. This new initiative is currently a localised, and perhaps a one-off one. The government has recognized the issues that residents face – rising and less affordable healthcare costs among the lower-income population.

The government has recognised this model of addressing higher healthcare costs – through the provision of free healthcare services. How can this model to be expanded, to ensure that there’s sustainability and longevity to the model, through replicating this model across the rest of Singapore, and enshrining the values of this initiative into the healthcare policy? How can the lower-income population, as a whole, benefit from the recognition by the government on their need for free healthcare services?

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3 comments

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