The public healthcare system will be regrouped into three clusters from the existing six regional health systems, to improve and future-proof the delivery of Singapore’s healthcare services.

This comes as Singapore’s healthcare needs are projected to grow in volume and complexity, and as the population ages rapidly and the burden of managing chronic diseases increases.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Jan 18 that the reorganisation is not expected to aect patients. No jobs will be lost.

The three new integrated clusters are:

  • Central region: National Healthcare Group (NHG) and the Alexandra Health System;
  • Eastern region: (SingHealth) and the Eastern Health Alliance (EHA);
  • Western region: National University Health System (NUHS) and Jurong Health Services (JurongHealth).

These three clusters will retain the names of NHG, SingHealth and NUHS respectively. Philip Choo will be the chief executive of the NHG; Ivy Ng will remain at the helm of the SingHealth cluster, and John Wong Eu Li will head NUHS.

Each cluster will have the full suite of healthcare services, from primary care to general hospitals and community hospitals; each will also have a medical school.

The network of polyclinics will also be reorganised into three groups, up from two before.

The polyclinics under NUHS, the National University Polyclinics, will be headed by new chief executive Lew Yii Jen, who is now senior director of clinical services of NHG Polyclinics. Five existing polyclinics now under NHG and SingHealth will be moved to this new group.

National specialty centres such as National Skin Centre and National Cancer Centre Singapore will stay within their existing clusters, that is, NHG and SingHealth respectively.

Among the specialised hospitals, the Institute of Mental Health will stay under NHG, and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital will remain with SingHealth.

MOH said the transition, when complete, will give the public healthcare institutions a fuller range of capabilities, services and networks across dierent care settings, be this primary care, acute hospital or community hospital care. The transition is expected to be completed in about a year.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that although MOH has signicantly improved accessibility, aordability and the quality of Singapore’s healthcare under the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan, it needs to manage future growth in healthcare manpower and spending. “This reorganisation of the public healthcare clusters will enable us to meet our future healthcare challenges. I am confident that we will be able to better optimise resources and capabilities, and provide more comprehensive and patient-centred care to meet Singaporeans’ evolving needs.”

The move will also enable public healthcare institutions to oer their employees a wider, deeper range of professional-development opportunities, and a broader platform for cross-learning — which will in turn benet patients, MOH said.

It added that patients can continue with their existing healthcare arrangements and appointments, and there will be no changes to fees.

Ongoing projects such as the renewal of the Singapore General Hospital campus will also go on as usual.

MOH added: “Almost everyone within the public healthcare sector will continue in their current roles, within their current teams. A small number may eventually be re-deployed, as the merged clusters better optimise their manpower. In such cases, staff will be offered jobs that match their experience and skill sets without any change to their current salaries. The clusters will consult with the union and staff on these changes.”

NHG chief Professor Choo acknowledged that the changes “can understandably be uncomfortable and unsettling for some”, but added that they will drive wider dialogue across the institutions and clusters and encourage “more knowledge sharing of new innovations, best practices, research and education”.

Responding to the developments, Ms Diana Chia, general secretary of the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU), said the union will work closely with stakeholders to ensure that workers are not adversely affected by the terms and conditions of employment after the reorganisation.

“The union will continue to hold engagement sessions with its members to address their concerns and clarify queries regarding the change. We will also continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to facilitate the transition of the affected healthcare workers,” she added.

In 2000, MOH split the public hospitals and polyclinics into two clusters — SingHealth and NHG.

Then between 2007 and 2009, the two groups were restructured in phases into six regional health systems.

The EHA evolved in two steps. It started off with the 2009 establishment of the Changi General Hospital Board as a subsidiary board under SingHealth. In early 2011, EHA was formally incorporated.