Welcome to Singapore! Whether you are here on fixed term contract, an open ended adventure or on a look-see visit, knowing a little about healthcare in Singapore will equip you with essential information should the time come when you or your loved ones need medical care.
Healthcare system in Singapore
Healthcare in Singapore is of a very high standard and comparable to any developed country, if not better. It consists of public and private hospitals and clinics. The public sector primarily serves the local residents and those who are permanent residents. As an expat, you can use these facilities but will be charged a private rate. Some expats will choose to be seen in the public sector, however there are often longer waiting times and getting an appointment quickly can be difficult. This results in many choosing the private sector instead. As an expat, it’s strongly advised that you have medical insurance to cover for both in- and out-patient medical care. Depending on the level of coverage provided by your work medical insurance, you may want to consider getting additional coverage so do read through your medical insurance policy and find out what is covered and what is excluded.
Vaccinations needed for Singapore
If you have had your childhood vaccinations and adult booster doses of tetanus, then no additional vaccinations are needed for living in Singapore. Depending on where your children were born, they may need some additional vaccinations, so it’s best to consult a doctor and bring along their vaccination record when you first arrive. The following are considered routine vaccinations for living in Singapore:
- Diptheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Haemophilus influenza Type B (Hib)
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis B
- BCG (against Tuberculosis)
A consultation with your doctor is always necessary as requirements may differ between individuals and remember that travelling to certain regions of Asia may require additional immunisations.
Diseases to be aware of in Singapore
Thankfully there is no malaria in Singapore, however dengue and chikungunya are two viral infections transmitted through the bite of some mosquitos. There is no vaccine against these infections, so prevention is key with measures taken to reduce mosquito bites. There is also a risk of Zika in Singapore. Although the risk is very low, if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, then consult your doctor for further advice. The risk of acquiring tuberculosis (TB) in Singapore is also very low, so taking into account your health, age and occupation a discussion with your doctor would be helpful to asses your own individual risk of acquiring this infection. Babies born in Singapore are routinely vaccinated against TB, so if your child has not been immunised and depending on his or her age, your doctor may recommend the BCG vaccination.
Travelling in Asia
Recommended vaccines for traveling in Asia include hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. In addition, depending on which countries you plan to visit and the duration of your trip, additional vaccines against rabies, cholera and Japanese encephalitis may be advised. If you are traveling to a malaria-infected area, then anti-malarials will be recommended as well. Dengue, chikungunya and zika are also prevalent in nearby Asian countries, so again mosquito bite avoidance is essential. Gastrointestinal infections are common in Asia, so taking extra pre-cautionary measures when consuming food and water is necessary. Travel kits can be purchased so that you are equipped during your travels to treat minor ailments and gastrointestinal infections. And finally don’t forget to purchase travel insurance to cover you for any medical care needed abroad and to ensure you can be medically repatriated should the need arise.
Annual health screens are important to optimize your well being, identify conditions that are asymptomatic and to screen for certain cancers, where early detection can mean a better outcome or cure. Health screens should be tailored to your medical needs and any significant family history or risk factors you have should be taken into account during your consultation.
Don’t forget the sunscreen! Living so close to the equator, even on overcast days, the sun’s ray can be harsh and cause sunburn. And finally stay well hydrated to avoid dehydration in Singapore’s hot and humid climate. This is particularly important for children, who are playing outdoors for prolonged periods of time and can easily forget to drink when they are having so much fun!
Despite the risk of a few ‘tropical diseases’, all in all Singapore is a safe place to live with an excellent healthcare system to serve you and your loved ones.