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THE Ministry of Health is exploring ways to reduce the cost of drugs borne by patients at general-practitioner (GP) clinics, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday in his official blog, Health Matters. The aim is to encourage patients to seek treatment at GP clinics, following feedback from 300 GPs at the Primary Care Seminar held two months ago.
Mr Elvis Yong, 47, welcomes the move as the cost of medication for his chronic condition, diabetes, worries him. The church pastor usually visits a polyclinic because it is more affordable. “If the costs at private clinics are comparable, I may consider switching to a GP clinic, which would be more convenient as it is nearer my home,” he said. In the blog post titled Partnering Our GPs In Primary Care, Mr Gan said: “Several GPs (said) that the much-cheaper drugs provided by polyclinics and public hospitals are preventing patients from seeking care at GP clinics.” To solve this problem, he is considering the possibility of lowering the cost of drugs provided by GPs to patients participating in the Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS).
PCPS will be enhanced to allow needy Singaporeans aged 40 and above, and with a per capita monthly household income of $1,500, to visit GPs at a subsidised rate from Jan 15 next year. The scheme aims to tap GPs’ resources and ease the heavy patient load at polyclinics. In earlier reports, Mr Gan said GPs will have to play a greater role in health care as Singapore’s population ages and the need for chronic-disease care increases.
The Health Minister is also looking into setting up specialist services in the community. Such services could be provided in medical centres in the community to help GPs “co-manage patients (in) more complex but stable conditions”, he said. “Many of the GPs whom I have spoken to are supportive of this idea,” said Mr Gan. “Singaporeans will also find this more convenient (than) going to hospital specialist outpatient clinics.” He added that the GP community gave its “strongest and broadest support” to the proposal of setting up community health centres. These centres could provide services that help those who suffer from chronic diseases. These would include blood tests for diabetics and physiotherapy for stroke patients.
Some GPs also hoped that these centres would provide administrative support for processes such as claims and data submission. This will relieve doctors from such chores and allow them to focus on patient care. In his blog, Mr Gan also discussed the idea of bringing together private health-care professionals to provide “teambased care” in family-medicine clinics set up in the community. He revealed that some GPs have expressed interest and are in “preliminary discussion” to explore the possibility of setting up such clinics.