Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Being a doctor is a tough business

ST Forum Wed April 7, 2010

"Being a doctor is a tough business

DR GARY Ang's reply ("More doctors may drive up costs", March 30) to Mr Choo Kay Wee's Forum Online letter ("More doctors, lower health bill?" March 25), suggesting that more practising doctors may drive up total medical costs, seems to fly in the face of conventional market wisdom.

Among other things, because we are now training three times as many doctors as in the 1970s and the doctor-to-patient ratio has dropped dramatically, doctors as a commodity have relatively depreciated in value and they command a lower asking price for their services. The increase in medical charges almost always is down to the escalating cost of medicine and other costs of doing business, with doctors' incomes stagnating.

That enterprising doctors create little niches for themselves to generate income is a sad but realistic reflection of how market forces have driven the practice of medicine to become a commercial trade.

Mr Choo delights in the prospect of having a trained doctor in every family, seeing this as a way of bringing down medical costs. A few years ago, the Government estimated the cost of training a doctor with a basic degree to be about $500,000. From a pecuniary point of view, Singapore would be far better off importing doctors of other nationalities; it would be far more cost effective and feasible than training a doctor in every family.

As it is, many patients have noticed that the medical staff in polyclinics and hospitals have turned into a veritable United Nations of sorts."

Let's see how long it will take before the snide comments come up in response to this letter to the ST Forum....

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