New Laws Could Fill Gaps in Healthcare System

One way to fill the gaps in the healthcare system revealed by the hepatitis C outbreak could be new laws, said Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat on Friday (12 Dec).

"The measures that we are going to put in place could also include legislative requirements that would have to be complied with by all healthcare institutions," said Mr Chee.

"But we just formed the task force, and I think we do need a bit of time to first understand our system (and) see where are the areas for improvement," he added.

He was speaking to reporters to provide more details of the eight member task force set up to strengthen the healthcare system’s ability to detect and respond to outbreak of diseases.

The task force, headed by Mr Chee, comprises experts in infectious diseases, data science and systems engineering, and will likely look at international best practices. It is expected to complete its work by mid-2016.

Most current measures to prevent and control infectious diseases in Singapore come under the Infectious Diseases Act passed since 1977. It allows the director of medical services of the Ministry of Health (MOH) to get patient information from doctors to investigate an outbreak, for example.

While the task force was formed specifically to implement recommendations by the Independent Review Committee (IRC), it will take a “holistic point of view” of the healthcare system. "We intend to take the opportunity to see how we can do a thorough systems-level review, and identify where are the areas for improvement, and take concrete steps to address the gaps."

Besides learning from international best practices, feedback will be sought from local medical professionals on how to enhance the system.

Previously, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, had called for a clearer protocol in detecting and reporting incidents such as the hepatitis C outbreak.

"I think the important thing is to have a robust framework for (dealing with) infectious diseases that can be audited and is enforceable. Whether or not it needs to be legislated is open for debate,” he told The Straits Times.

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Source: “Gaps in healthcare system may be fixed with new laws”, (The Straits Times, 12 December 2015)

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