The Ministry of Health (MOH), under the Healthcare Services Bill introduced in Parliament on Monday (Jan 6), is empowered to take over the operations of certain healthcare providers in serious financial disturbances.
The step-in regulations are only available to residential healthcare organizations such as nursing homes, clinics, and palliative hospitals.
Senior Health Minister Edwin Tong clarified during the second reading of the Bill that MOH or a designated “step-in” operator can also take over when the service provider violates the regulations in compliance with this bill or is acting in a manner that is harmful to patients or customers ‘ interests.
The Healthcare Services Bill replaces the PHMCA Act which The PHMCA Act
Under the bill, instead of a site-based regime under the Act, there will be a service-based licensing system. The rules will also be rendered for the first time for private ambulance services and telemedicine service providers.
Many facilities like traditional medicine, as well as alternative and complementary medicine, are currently not allowed, said MOH. MOH.
Between early 2021 to the end of 2022, it will be in three stages.
The new regulations would apply, first, to PHMCA clinical laboratory licensees and, eventually, to hospitals and approved services that offer additional new services.
” The primary purpose is to protect the safety and well-being of patients against a recalcitrant provider who threatens them or prevents the abrupt end of the health care service, “said Dr. Tong.
Stepping in is temporary until a service has been improved and there are no more barriers to patient safety and welfare, Mr. Tong said.
The power of the Healthcare Services Bill is not special, Mr. Tong said. The powers for ‘ essential services ‘ such as the transport and financial services industries are also included in regulatory frameworks.
MPs ASK FOR CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRING STEP IN POWERS
However, several MEPs asked for assurance that powers would only be used if necessary.
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza asked: “Since the power is intrusive and the threat of step-in can cause uncertainties for everyone concerned, could the Minister give examples to illustrate the gravity of the situation?
Likewise, Louis Ng, Nee Soon GRC MP, wanted to know how and when the power of step is being exercised.
“If the interest of patients is to do so, they (the powers) will be activated. In the end, that obviously needs an assessment in each case that is multi-faceted and complex. We want to ensure that the step-in powers are triggered sparingly and efficiently as a final measure, “Mr. Tong responded.
Under the current PHMCA, regulatory action such as the revocation or suspension of the license can only be taken by MOH. This was “unfeasible” because the continuity of care for resident patients would be disrupted, said M. Tong.
Step-in powers will now allow MOH to intervene to address the problems and improve patient continuity.
MPs QUESTION LICENSING OF OTHER SERVICES, MPs of COLOCATION RESTRICTIONS have asked whether services such as allied, social, conventional and home and community services are approved so that providers can prepare for legislation in time.
Tong has said that the licensing of such facilities is not expected and MOH will track the scenery closely.
The co-location of licensed and unlicensed facilities was also challenged. Under the Bill, the co-location with or within the licensed services of unrelated, unlicensed services is not authorized except with the approval by MOH.
Fatimah Lateef asked Marine Parade GRC MP if guidelines in this sector can be made clear and concise as harassment and misunderstanding is likely.