Singapore: Destination Health

The greatest wealth is health.  ~Virgil

Heading to Singapore for medical treatment? You couldn’t have chosen a better place. The tiny island of Singapore has built a huge reputation as the healthcare destination for patients from its neighboring ASEAN countries and especially Indonesia. Just 2 hours flight time from most places in Indonesia lets you access ‘top-of-the-line’ quality medical services and facilities, serviced by English-speaking and internationally trained medical practitioners and staff. This demand is led by Indonesia’s growing economic importance and an expanding middle class seeking facilities beyond their local healthcare services.

I have heard many medical horror stories from long term residents and locals in Indonesia. Stories of wrong diagnosis and medication, botched procedures and even invasive operations when there was no need for the same. This coupled with communication issues for non Bahasa speakers is really a recipe for disaster. While researching for this article, I bumped into friend who shared that her son was put into plaster after a soccer accident and after a few years during a job medical, discovered that he had never had a fracture! Her husband had been diagnosed with dengue and was prescribed drugs for typhoid and had to be treated in Singapore. She has since stopped looking at local medical care in Indonesia.

Another friend had her daughter’s scoliosis corrected in Singapore as she felt more comfortable with the specialists advice and treatment. Post operative care was very good too. Despite the fact that Indonesia is the world’s fifth most populous nation, most expatriates prefer to go back to their home country or to Singapore, even to have their babies. All this word of mouth advice and sharing of experiences is a major influence on health decision making.

Last year a patient in Jakarta, who sent an email to her friends regarding her less than satisfactory treatment at a private hospital was imprisioned for defamation and fined a hefty sum. Senior journalist Kornelius Purba at The Jakarta Post writes ‘In Indonesia, doctors are always right and never wrong. And even when they are wrong, they are always right’.

At present foreign doctors and nurses are not permitted to practice in Indonesia. Counterfeit drugs remain a big problem, despite the presence of a strong Drug Regulatory Authority, responsible for the registration of medicines as well as quality control and inspection. At the same time, the use of traditional medicines such as ‘jamu’  and traditional healers are popular and widespread in Indonesia.

This travel across international boundaries for medical services with an enjoyable recovery period at significant financial savings is often called medical tourism, but I guess the ‘tourism’ bit is only for the accompanying family members. Beyond excellent clinical services, affordable costs and good customer service, patients and their families need a safe and comfortable environment, and even opportunities for recreation and shopping for their travel companions.

The World Health Organization ranks Singapore as the best health system in Asia and much higher than the United States and Canada. Many hospitals and medical centers in Singapore have international accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI), ISO and OHSAS. A growing number of hospitals and specialty centers catering to medical travelers offer ultra-high quality healthcare in complex cardiac surgery, cancer treatment, organ transplants, cosmetic and dental surgery and other medical treatment. Popular medical procedures include knee and hip replacements and cardiac surgeries. The most commonly performed plastic surgery procedures are breast augmentation, liposuction and rhinoplasty.

Most healthcare facilities in Singapore have dedicated International Patient Service Centers to attend to international patients’ needs, from their first inquiry and ‘meet and greet’ at the airport, to interpreter services and support for accompanying persons, to the final send-off and post-treatment follow-up when patients are back in their home country. Singapore’s top healthcare providers have facilities that are comparable to five-star hotels. Patients are treated and recuperate in private and exclusive environments.

So if you are living in Indonesia and need urgent and complex medical care, Singapore with its excellent infrastructure is the logical destination, not only for business and leisure, but also for world-class, affordable and safe healthcare. Singapore’s well-trained and experienced medical staff work to deliver the best healthcare experience and treatment providing them and their families peace of mind when health really matters.

As published in the Jakarta Post Sept 30th 2011

Destination Health: Singapore

Destination Health: Singapore

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