The standard of healthcare in Singapore is excellent. It’s not only one of the top systems in Asia, but can be placed among the leading healthcare models globally. Despite this, medical services are surprisingly affordable. Singapore’s national insurance scheme is arguably one of the best public health insurance structures in the world.
As English is the main language of business in Singapore, many medical staff are bilingual and speak fluent English.
Public hospitals are well-equipped and patients from surrounding countries often travel to Singapore for more complex treatments and a better standard of care. Community clinics, known as polyclinics, serve as multifunctional primary care facilities. They provide health screenings and immunisation as well as general outpatient services, including dentistry in some cases.
Singapore has a unique approach to public healthcare where patients co-pay for most of their medical expenses through contributions to a mandatory savings plan. Unfortunately, only citizens or permanent residents can access this care. Therefore, the majority of expats in Singapore take out private health insurance or have it subsidised by their employer.
Private hospitals are slightly pricier than their public counterparts but the level of service is better. They tend to cater more for foreigners and wealthy Singaporeans, and are generally smaller and less prevalent than public hospitals. Generally, expats use private hospitals and clinics for day-to-day services and only turn to public hospitals in an emergency.
For expats living in Singapore a good international health insurance plan is advisable to ensure continued access to quality healthcare and avoid expensive medical fees.
Those moving to Singapore for work are likely to have private international health insurance included as part of their relocation package. Regardless, it is wise to carefully check the terms of any health insurance policy to ensure that it provides adequate cover to meet each individual’s needs.
Pharmacies and medication
Most hospitals and clinics in Singapore have dedicated pharmacies attached. These tend to be the only 24-hour pharmacies available. Some retail pharmacies have extended opening hours, but don’t necessarily dispense medication at all hours.
Almost all medication needs a prescription, and foreign prescriptions won’t be always honoured. Some medication such as mild painkillers and cough medicine can be bought over the counter and at supermarkets and department stores. Imported medication can be expensive, but generic options are widely available.
Health hazards in Singapore
Sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration are the main health issues that expats face in Singapore. Temperatures are usually around 30 °C (86 °F) and the humidity can be uncomfortable for new arrivals. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Fortunately, the water quality in Singapore is excellent, and can be drunk straight from the tap with no need for filtering.
Singapore’s close proximity to the equator means that UV levels can be intense. Using a good quality sunblock of at least SPF30, is vital to avoid a nasty sunburn.
Emergency services and important numbers
Singapore has two systems for medical services. The national emergency number connects to the fire department and ambulance service. Ambulances are well-equipped, and each is manned by a paramedic and two EMTs. These official ambulances will automatically take patients to the closest public hospital. Unless they are called in non-emergency situations, there is no charge.
In non-critical outpatient cases, expats can either go directly to the hospital themselves or call the non-emergency ambulance hotline. This links to a network of private ambulance operators that can assist patients by transporting them to the nearest private health facility. Fees for the use of a private ambulance can be expensive but vary from operator to operator.
National emergency number: 995 (fire department and ambulance)
Non-emergency ambulance services: 1777 (private ambulance)
If you’re moving abroad and want to know more about the healthcare in place, take a look at Allianz worldwide care’s guides healthcare systems abroad.