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The IHH group saw about 30 percent more foreign patients from April to September 2022. (File Photo ST)

Foreigners again flocking to Singapore for medical treatment after lifting of Covid-19 curbs

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) -- On March 15, Mr Robert Putra Sampurna, 34, felt a sudden sharp pain in his abdomen while driving in his home town of Surabaya, Indonesia.
In spite of the pain, he drove himself to the nearest hospital where “I just threw my car keys to the valet and lay down on the floor”.
He said the 10-minute drive to the hospital was the longest 10 minutes of his life and, by the time he arrived, he could hardly move for the pain. He was stretchered into the emergency department where a CT scan showed he had stones in the ureter, the tube that takes the urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
He took painkillers, bought the last ticket on the last flight to Singapore that same night (his brother, who was accompanying him, had to fly over the following day as that earlier flight was full).
A doctor at Gleneagles Hospital saw him the next morning and a procedure was done on March 17.
Mr Sampurna, who owns a firm that imports power tools from China, told The Straits Times that he was willing to endure the discomfort a little longer in order to get treated in Singapore.
He is among the tens of thousands of foreign patients who are again flocking to Singapore for medical care in private hospitals after Covid-19 restrictions on travel were lifted.
Prior to the pandemic, about 40,000 foreigners used to come to Singapore each month for medical care, ranging from health screening to surgery and chemotherapy.
Singapore opened its border in phases, with vaccinated travel lanes and designated flights for people from low-risk countries from September 2021, and lifted all restrictions in February 2023. A spokesman for Raffles Hospital said the number of foreign patients seen at the hospital is back to that in pre-Covid-19 days, accounting for 25 per cent of its patient load. The majority of them are from Indonesia, followed closely by China and Indochina.
The IHH group, which runs the two Mount Elizabeth hospitals, Gleneagles Hospital and Parkway East Hospital, said that there was a big surge in patients for several months in 2022. Mr Jeffrey Law, IHH Singapore’s chief commercial officer, said: “There was a huge influx from April to September last year. The hospitals were seeing 30 percent more and it was quite a mad rush.”
The numbers have since come down. Mr Law said they are now lower than in pre-Covid-19 years, but the revenue is higher. Foreigners now account for 20 percent of IHH hospitals’ patients, but 30 percent of the revenue.
He said this is because these patients tend to be sicker or have more complex problems, as a result of pandemic-delayed treatment.
Some patients from Bangladesh were practically rushed to hospital, sometimes to intensive care, straight from the airport, he added.

(Latest Update May 2, 2023)

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