Healthcare in Singapore for Expats
Expats can expect the healthcare standard in Singapore to be world-class. Singapore is consistently ranked among the best performing countries in the world for its top-notch quality healthcare system, advanced technology and service.
Singapore’s healthcare system is designed to ensure that everyone has access to different levels of healthcare in a timely, cost-effective and seamless manner. No Singaporean is denied access into the healthcare system or turned away by public hospitals because of lack of money. Singapore healthcare services are accessible through a wide network of primary, acute and step-down care providers.
Both public and private sector services are available. It is appropriate to say that both function professionally and efficiently. Most of the time, foreigners will use private entities for primary care, but public hospitals for emergency services and more complex care.
Private care is more costly than public care but many are happy to pay a higher price in exchange for reduced waiting time and more relaxing comfy environment and facilities. However, through our conversations with expats, there is a percentage who will argue that the waiting time with public and private care differs very little.
Primary Healthcare Services
Primary healthcare services are provided by professionals—usually general practitioners —in polyclinics and private medical clinics within the community. These healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact with patients who can then be referred to medical specialists and hospitals for further checks and receive more specialized treatment and be warded if necessary. In Singapore, primary health care is provided through an island network of 18 outpatient polyclinics and about 2,400 private medical clinics.
Common primary healthcare services include:
• Outpatient medical treatment
• Medical follow-ups after discharge from hospital
• Health screening and education
• Diagnostic and pharmaceutical services
• Dental treatment
All hospitals will need a guarantee of payment and your identification (passport) before you will be admitted.
Bring a doctor’s referral letter and a deposit or insurance form. Inquire at the hospital in advance.
In some cases a letter of guarantee will be accepted. Check with your insurance company.
In case of emergencies it is advisable to rush to the Accident and Emergency’s Departments of the National University Hospital, the Singapore General Hospital or the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital as they are better prepared for these cases.
Outpatient Clinics and Practices
For medical treatment you may contact one of the many private clinics close to your home or visit the outpatient clinics at the hospitals. If you are unsure where to go, contact other expatriates. You are not restricted to any particular clinic and may see either a GP of your choice or a company-appointed doctor. There are some highly qualified specialists to be found in government specialist clinics but you need to be referred.
At most clinics you need not call to make an appointment and waiting time is reasonable. Generally we advise you to research for a general practitioner on arrival and contact a clinic for its operating schedule. Many doctors open their clinics after office hours, on Saturdays and even on Sunday morning for a couple of hours. Clinics often have joint practice of several doctors. Make sure you see the doctor who was recommended to you.
Government outpatient clinics (also called 'polyclinics') generally take care of the locals and standard rates apply. Operating hours are from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm with a break for lunch. As polyclinics provide affordable outpatient healthcare for the public, do expect a longer wait than private clinics. Consultation fees of private practitioners vary significantly in Singapore. Doctors expect you to come to their clinics and house calls are unusual and expensive.