​To keep hospitals on their toes, the Health Ministry (MOH) is developing a framework that will measure them against each other and medical centres abroad.

The move is designed to get hospitals to compete and improve the quality of the care they provide, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong last night.

While the outcomes of heart surgeries at the National Heart Centre and the National University Hospital are already published, the results of more medical procedures should be made public, said Mr Goh, who was the guest of honour at the National Heart Centre Singapore's (NHC) 10th anniversary dinner last night.

He added: 'Institutions should compete on the quality of clinical outcomes and the pace of new, cost-effective innovation that improves patient care, instead of competing on parameters such as revenues, profits and earning of doctors.'

Mr Goh, who described Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan as the best health minister Singapore has ever had, threw his weight behind three goals set by Mr Khaw for the MOH.

Along with getting hospitals to compete to boost the quality of care provided, the ministry wants to retain 'a fair share' of top talent in the public health sector, despite the pull of higher pay in private practice.

Mr Goh said: 'We will make it easier for them to stay by making salaries competitive in the public sector.

'But beyond remuneration, we must offer a value proposition that encourages them to stay.'

The third goal is to raise the standard of primary and step-down care.

Primary care providers include general practitioners and polyclinics, while step-down care refers to community hospitals and nursing homes.

The Government hopes primary care providers will play a bigger role in managing chronic diseases and mental health, freeing hospital resources, among other things.

'While common sense tells us this is the right thing to do, getting it accepted by the public will not be an easy task,' said Mr Goh.

'It is not just about upgrading the capabilities of the primary and step-down care sectors. But also about getting the pricing, financing and subsidy system right and changing the bias against step-down and primary care.'

Mr Goh also said Singaporeans are getting a first-world health-care system at half the cost spent by most developed nations.

For example, Singapore's key health indicators are comparable with those of developed nations. Yet the country's health-care spending is below 4 per cent of GDP - about half the rate spent by most developed countries.

The NHC's medical director, A/Prof Koh Tian Hai, welcomes the ministry's plans to come up with a performance measurement framework, saying it could only mean better health care for its patients. A/Prof Koh added that the NHC's results for angioplasty - a procedure used to treat heart diseases - and bypass surgeries are 'on par' with international Western standards.

However, another heart doctor interviewed, who declined to be named, cautioned that such a measurement framework had ramifications. For example, some American hospitals are more reluctant to operate on very sick patients as this may affect their performance ratings, he said.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.