“Building ahead of demand” for airport, but “nothing” for healthcare?


The rhetoric – “building ahead of demand” for Changi airport, but “building nothing’ for healthcare (decrease in total hospital beds for 10 years) is “laughable”?

I refer to the article “Building ahead of demand is key for Changi Airport’s success, says Khaw Boon Wan at T4’s opening” (Straits Times, Aug 3).

It states that “Forward planning and building ahead of demand are important to ensure that Changi Airport keeps ahead of its rivals, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Friday (Aug 3) at the official opening of the airport’s Terminal 4 (T4).

“But building ahead of demand requires sound judgment. It is not simply ‘build and they will come’. The aviation industry is unpredictable, subject to many disruptions, including oil prices and, at times, unhelpful governmental interventions,” he said.

“Adhering to straightline projections may end up in tears. We must be sensitive to potential disruptions and be ready to make strategic changes promptly when warranted,” Mr Khaw added.”

Since the Transport Minister was the Health Minister from 2004 to 2011 – did we “build ahead of demand” for healthcare?

In this regard, according to the Department of Statistics’ Yearbook of Statistics 2012, the total number of hospital beds in Singapore declined from 11,936 in 2001 to 11,394 in 2011.

Increase in hospital admissions

The number of hospital admissions increased from 384,054 to 469,445.

Increase in medical tourists

Medical tourism has also increased to about 850,000 medical tourists a year now.

Population increase by 1.1 m

Against this, there was an increase in the population from 4.1 to 5.2 million over the same period.

Shortage of hospital beds

This may explain the historical spate of letters and media reports about the shortage of hospital beds and longer waiting times in public hospitals.

So, arguably, which is more important – “building ahead of demand” for Changi airport, or “never build anything at all” for healthcare (hospital beds)?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.