Impending Overhaul of Singapore’s Healthcare Legislation

January 24, 2018

The Singapore Ministry of Health is currently consulting stakeholders for feedback on the draft Healthcare Services Bill, which is intended to be implemented in three stages starting in December 2019. 

The bill is aimed at replacing the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA), which is viewed as outdated in the evolving healthcare environment in light of an aging population, an increase in chronic diseases, and the development of new healthcare services such as telemedicine and mobile medical services.

The new legislation initially will regulate medical and dental clinics as well as clinical laboratories, all of which are currently regulated under the PHMCA.

Key features of the draft bill are summarized below:

Broader Regulatory Scope

MOH’s regulatory scope will be gradually broadened to cover healthcare services, nursing and allied health services, traditional medicine as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Beauty and wellness services will not be included. For now, however, only healthcare services will be licensed.

New Services-based Licensing

“Services-based” licensing will replace “premises-based” (physical location–based) licensing, i.e., providers will be licensed based on the type of services they provide and not according to their physical premises. The bill proposes six service categories: Hospital Services, Ambulatory Care Services, Long-Term Residential Care Services, Non-Premise Based Services, Health Support Services, and Specified Services.

Improved Governance

New competent governing bodies, key personnel and committees will be appointed to regulate the licensed healthcare services, a move which is expected to improve governance and safety standards within these services. MOH will be empowered to step in and assist in the operations of failing care providers where necessary. This is a transitional measure before patients are transferred to another competent services provider, and such powers will be exercised as a last resort after measures such as penalties and warnings have failed.

Data Collection

The new legislation will require care providers to enter patients’ care data into the National Electronic Health Record to ensure better care coordination. This step-by-step implementation is proposed to take place starting in December 2019. The MOH will put safeguards in place to preserve the confidentiality of patient records, which will be used for patient care and not for purposes such as assessment for employment and insurance. Patients will be able to “opt out” of the system but will be notified that opting out may not be in their best interests in the case of emergencies, when necessary records may not be available.

Enhanced Patient Protection

Under the proposed legislation, the MOH will have the right to prohibit unsafe practices and to collect and publish information about non-compliant licensees and unlicensed providers. For the protection of frail and vulnerable patients, the bill will allow the MOH to set restrictions on licensees employing staff to work in healthcare services. Other measures include tightening of publicity controls to ensure that unlicensed personnel are prevented from advertising healthcare service claims.

At the end of the consultation programme, the MOH will publish a summary of the feedback provided and its responses thereto. Visit the MOH website for more information.