Singapore inherited the British system of medicine but there are also a number of facilities practising traditional forms of medicine. It has a good medical school and two high quality teaching hospitals, the Singapore General Hospitals and the private National University Hospital. Overall standards of health in the community compare very favourably with other countries. These two hospitals will provide services to visitors and will charge them a reasonable fee. These hospitals serve the local community and are a safe option when ill. The private sector in contrast is commercially driven and may be patchy. Attempts may be made to persuade visitors into the other private hospitals.
Of the private hospitals Gleneagles was started by a number of doctors and performed well. It was purchased by Parkway Holdings in the 1980's and to the best of my knowledge continued to perform well.
The East Shore hospital (also known as the American hospital) was once owned by Dr Sundariason, a surgeon businessman who sold it to American Medical International (AMI). Sundariason went on to form the Airport Medical Centre which provided services to visitors at the airport until it lost the contract in the early 1990's. The Airport Centre admitted primarily to the two American corporate owned hospitals. Two of its doctors were suspended from practice by the Singapore Medical Council in 1991.
The Mount Elizabeth Hospital was also founded by doctors but was sold to National Medical Enterprises (NME) in 1985. NME, which was renamed Tenet Healthcare in 1994 also bought the East Shore Hospital from AMI.
Private care and business
With such a strong American corporate influence the private sector came to regard medicine primarily as a business, although they paid service to and identified with medical ethics and values. The teaching hospitals maintained their English traditions. Relationships with the more commercial private hospitals have in the past been cool.
Singapore became a medical referral centre for the region. NME ran clinics and satellite facilities in surrounding countries. Insured travellers were flown into Singapore for care. Medical fees were comparable with the USA, and the business was very profitable. I first became concerned about NME's business practices in Singapore in 1989, two years before exposure of the scandal surrounding their US operations in 1991.
Tenet/NME sells up
After Tenet/NME's US guilty plea in 1994 Australia stepped in to force Tenet/NME to sell its facilities. The extent of the pressures on the company in Singapore are not known. Its image took a battering when a doctor gave evidence describing very disturbing business practices. The company did not even put up witnesses to dispute these.
Tenet/NME sold all of its facilities in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to Parkway Holdings a Malaysian company in 1995. To the best of my knowledge there has never been any suggestion that Parkway has indulged in any of the practices which have so tarnished the credibility of Tenet/NME and other US corporate giants. Tenet/NME did however continue to manage some if not all of these facilities for Parkway for some years.
Vista Healthcare was formed in Singapore in 1996 with a board of directors comprised almost entirely of past US and Singapore NME staff. It was backed by the Chase Manhattan bank. Michael Ford past president of Tenet/NME's international division has operated as an "International Health Care Consultant"
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