While the Singaporean healthcare system has been ranked as one of the most efficient worldwide, Singaporeans appear to think differently. In fact, 72% of Singaporeans have been feeling like their healthcare system is failing them. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, ranging from more hospital attendance to longer wait times and a decline in medical resources such as hospital beds. In this article, we discuss hospital overcrowding and whether or not Singaporean hospitals have gotten more crowded over the past 10 years.
Hospital Beds Are Increasing at a Slower Rate than Hospital Admissions
Our research found that the number of Singaporeans being admitted to hospitals on a daily basis is increasing, which might makemaking it seem like hospitals are more crowded. For instance, recent data suggests that while the total population grew around 1.4% between 2015 and 2017, acute public and private hospital admissions increased by 15% and 9.4% respectively. This signifies that more Singaporeans are getting admitted into hospitals on a daily basis compared to prior years. Similarly, data between 2008 and 2014 shows similar trends—while total population increased 13% between 2007 and 2014, the daily average admittance rate for all public and private hospitals increased by 17% and 24%, respectively. This suggests that acute hospitals are not the only medical facilities that are facing higher rates of admission.
While the increase in hospital admissions could be due to a number of factors including an aging population and increasing mortality rates (death rates grew by 3.2% compared to the total population growth of 2.5% between 2014 and 2016), additional factors may also be contributing to overcrowding. One significant factor is a decrease of hospital beds available per Singaporean, as it indicates that a greater number of Singaporeans are vying for the same medical resource.
To illustrate this case, between 2015 and 2017 there was a 15% increase in acute public hospital admissions compared to a 6% increase in acute public hospital beds. Similarly, acute private hospitals saw an 9% increase in hospital admissions compared to a 3.2% increase in hospital beds. This trend has been fairly consistent even before 2015, as we found that the rate of admission for all public hospitals increased 17% compared to a 14.7% increase in beds. These trends may suggest that while hospitals may be attempting to keep up with the growing admittance rate, overcrowding could become a significant issue if hospitals are not able to keep up with demand in the future.
Singaporean Hospitals Face Overcrowding in the Middle of the Week
While there is an overall increase in hospital admissions, there are times when hospitals experience varying levels of congestion. This means that certain Singaporeans may experience overcrowding, while others can have a drastically different experience. Generally, our data shows that Singaporeans who are admitted to a hospital during the weekday will feel like there is more overcrowding compared to Singaporeans who are admitted during the weekends due to longer wait times and bed occupancy.
One of the most frustrating experiences is being stuck in a waiting room for hours while you are experiencing a severe illness or injury. Long wait times often occur when there is not enough medical personnel available for the number of patients, and can thus be a symptom of overcrowding. Our data from a July 2018 weekly sample of 6 public hospitals found that the average wait time to be admitted to a ward is 2.5 hours. Furthermore, hospitals have the longest wait times during the middle of the week, with an average wait time of 3.2 hours between Tuesdays and Thursdays compared to an average wait time of 1.6 hours on weekends and 2.3 hours on Monday or Friday. This shows that patients who are admitted to a hospital during the weekday will have a greater perception of overcrowding than those admitted on weekends.
While wait times are one potential symptom of overcrowding, the number of full beds can also be an indicator that a hospital is running over capacity. Currently, Singapore’s bed occupancy is close to 100%, which can mean there is a potential for overcrowding as more Singaporeans start seeking medical care. For instance, while the annual average is stated to be 85%, 2018 weekly data shows an average of capacity rate of 89%, with two hospitals having 95-96% of their beds occupied. In fact, on one day, Khoo Tek Phuat Hospital saw a 100.9% bed occupancy rate, meaning they were over occupied. Similar to the waiting times data, the highest rate of bed occupancy was between Monday and Wednesday. This means that Singaporeans who are in public hospitals during the middle of the week will perceive more overcrowding than those who are admitted during the weekends.
Which Hospitals are the Most Overcrowded?
As we saw in the previous paragraph, Khoo Tek Phuat Hospital had the highest bed occupancy rate of 96%, with one day of the sampled week even going over 100% occupancy. However, it also had the lowest waiting time which means that turnover in the hospital is fairly quick. On the other hand, Tan Tong Seng Hospital had the longest waiting time average of 4.5 hours on a weekly basis. It also had the second highest bed occupancy rate of 95%. This means that on average, the most crowded hospital would be Tan Tong Seng. The hospital that seems to be the least crowded would be Changi General Hospital, as it has the lowest bed occupancy rate of 85% and the second shortest wait time of 1.7 hours.
What This Means for Singaporeans
Unfortunately, because the geriatric population is growing more quickly hospital facilities can realistically keep up with, it seems like more and more Singaporeans will get a feeling of overcrowding at hospitals. Furthermore, even if Singapore decides to build more facilities to keep up with demand, it will still take a while for these projects to be planned out and completed. Thus, the feeling of overcrowded hospitals may take several years to dissipate.
In the meantime, while age can lead to health issues regardless of lifestyle, younger Singaporeans can focus on disease prevention to prevent illnesses that will require hospital treatment. This includes eating healthy, exercising regularly and managing stress levels. However, those who are currently experiencing frequent trips to the hospital can consider purchasing a private hospital Integrated Shield Plan as private hospitals are still seeing significantly lower admission rates than public hospitals and may offer a less congested experience. However, it is worth noting that IP’s for private hospitals are around 127% more expensive than a Ward A plan, meaning a cost increase of anywhere from S$118 to S$1,527. Thus, you should weigh the increase in cost against the added convenience, as upgrading to a private hospital plan may not always be worth it.
The article Are Singaporean Hospitals Overcrowded? originally appeared on ValuePenguin.
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