S'pore health system a model for Mongolia

LAST month, private health-care provider Singapore Medical Group (SMG) unveiled plans to build a multi-disciplinary 50-bed tertiary hospital in Mongolia's capital Ulanbaatar.

Fifteen other satellite family medicine clinics and mini-hospitals will also be built in various parts of the country.

Dr Jadamba Tsolmon, 43, Mongolia's Vice-Minister for Health, was in Singapore last week for a tour of SMG's facilities.

The Lasik Surgery Clinic, The Dental Studio and The Cancer Centre are among the facilities run by SMG.

In an interview with The New Paper, Dr Tsolmon tells us why she thinks our health-care system is ideal and should be used as a "model example" for her country.

Q: What do you know about Singapore's health-care system? Why team up with a Singapore health-care provider?
A:The Singapore health-care system is very famous and I see it as a model example for Mongolia.

Its medical insurance system (such as Medishield and Medisave) is very good and we have interest in duplicating the Singapore medical insurance system.

I also know people who had (travelled) to Singapore for treatment. One was a former ambassador of ours.

He (came) to Singapore for treatment for liver cancer.

The treatment here helped prolong his life for several months, but because he was diagnosed at a very late stage, he died in 2001.

Singapore is also well-known for providing quality medical service among my friends. That's why directors of various Mongolian companies send their wives here to give birth.

We are happy to receive the proposal from SMG...We want to take Mongolia to a very high-quality world standard, so we hope this new hospital will be the centre of world-class treatment and diagnosis, not just for Mongolia but for our bordering countries.

We are considering state participation in the joint venture.

Q: What is the current state of health-care in Mongolia?

A: There are three levels of care: primary (family group practices), secondary (district hospitals) and tertiary (major hospitals and specialised centres) health-care systems.

We have three general hospitals. We also have centres for cancer, infectious diseases, prosthetics and injuries, maternity, skin diseases, elderly and psychiatric care among others.

Each of these can be quite big (with) between 150 and 350 beds.

There is only one other foreign-run hospital, a tertiary hospital run by Koreans.

Q: What are some of the pressing issues and challenges facing Mongolia's health-care system?

A: We do have a lot of problems. We are currently in a transition period from a Soviet era to a modern era, and we are trying to change.

Infrastructure is not good. There are bad roads or (people have to travel) too far to see the doctor, so (they) cannot get proper treatment and proper diagnosis in time. This is why people often get diagnosed late.

Our hospitals are also not very well-equipped.

(For) cancer especially, over 83 per cent of diagnosis is at the very late stages - stage 3 or 4 - that's why the rate of mortality is high.

But we are trying to solve these problems step by step. We are currently spending 3.5 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product on the health sector. We are trying to increase the budget to 6 per cent over the next two years.

We also run projects with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank to give proper public education to our people about diseases and to give good quality health care.

Because the territory is very vast, Mongolia is now trying to establish an e-health system, so all health-care systems and remote regions are linked to each other through an integrated database.

This makes it easier for people who live in the countryside or remote areas to get proper diagnosis and treatment.

Q: Will the new Singapore hospitals help improve the quality of health in the country?

A: Yes. It will give a lot of influence because our doctors will get to be trained abroad and they will be assisted and trained by world-class doctors from Singapore.

Such information exchange will also benefit our other tertiary hospitals because all other Mongolian doctors can be trained at this hospital.

Primary health care will also be improved with the new facilities.

Another benefit is that it will reduce the flow of money- the millions of dollars which are going outside of Mongolia for medical treatment in other countries.

This makes it more equitable because not only the rich can get treatment overseas.

With such hospitals, ordinary people can get world-class treatment in Mongolia because our insurance system can provide some coverage.

This article was first published in The New Paper.


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