Whether it's a high fever that's kept you up all night or a bone that you think might be broken, you've likely asked yourself: do I need to go to the emergency room? In some cases, Hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) is the appropriate place to go for treatment, but in many other instances, it is actually better to seek out timely and quality care at a 24-hour general practitioner (GP) clinic. Read ahead to learn the differences between a hospital A&E and 24-hour clinic, from costs to care.
Table of Contents
- 24-Hour Clinics in Singapore
- Hospital A&E in Singapore
- Should You Go To A 24-Hour Clinic Or A&E Hospital?
24-Hour Clinics in Singapore
There are more than 1,800 GP clinics in Singapore that provide a range of medical services from outpatient medical treatment to health screening and education. Of these, a few are clinics that are open 24 hours of the day, much like a hospital A&E would be. But unlike a hospital A&E, 24-hour clinics are equipped to holistically address your and your family's health in addition to treating minor emergencies.
|Examples of 24-Hour Clinic Healthcare Services|
|Outpatient Medical Treatment||Coughs, colds, headaches, minor burns, strains|
|Minor Surgical Procedures||Wound dressing, drainage of abscess|
|Diagnosis & Prevention of Chronic Diseases||Hypertension, diabetes, stroke, asthma, anxiety|
|Women, Men and Child's Health||Pap smear, STD/HIV screening, maternity care, male pattern baldness|
|Vaccinations||H1N1, tetanus, childhood vaccination|
|Health Screening and Education||Blood count, clinical measurements, lipid profiles, urinalysis|
Above all, your GP clinic is designed to assist you with the management of chronic health issues and prevention of illness and disease. Instead of waiting for a health concern to arise (that would require the attention of a hospital A&E), you can save money and your health by being proactive and seeking care from a clinic.
24-Hour Clinic Fees and Other Costs
When you visit a 24-hour clinic, you will have to pay a consultation fee to see a doctor for your medical issue. As a rule of thumb, consultation fees do not include tests, treatment, referrals or medicine. Below, we've compared the consultation fee of a lower budget 24-hour clinic to a higher budget 24 hr clinic.
|Time||Raffles 24 Hour Clinic||Mount Alverna 24 Hour Clinic|
|Weekdays||Monday to Friday||Monday to Saturday|
|8 am to 6 pm||S$27.82||S$66.34|
|6 pm to 12 am||S$40.66||S$80.25|
|12 am to 8 am||S$ 69.55||S$96.30|
|Weekends||Saturday & Sunday||Only Sunday|
|8 am to 6 pm||S$40.66||S$80.25|
|6 pm to 12 am||S$40.66||S$80.25|
|12 am to 8 am||S$ 69.55||S$96.30|
|8 am to 6 pm||S$40.66||S$90.95|
|6 pm to 12 am||S$40.66||S$90.95|
|12 am to 8 am||S$69.55||S$108.07|
As shown by the two examples above, a clinic consultation fee varies from S$20 to more than S$120. This fee greatly depends on the certification of your general practitioner, duration of the consultation, and the time of day and week that you seek out medical services. For example, Mount Alverna's standard consultation fee increased by almost 92% for an extended consultation after midnight on a public holiday, while 24-Hours Raffles Medical Clinic saw a 150% increase for the same.
While Singaporeans are covered by Medishield Life, this basic health insurance scheme is designed to cover large hospital bills and costly outpatient treatments in public hospitals, not medical expenses from private GP 24-hour clinics. However, some private health insurers have a panel of GP clinics which can help to offset a pricey consultation fee.
Similarly, you may qualify for government subsidies that assist you with the upfront costs of some private practice health services, like chronic disease management or dental care. For instance, under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP), you can use your MediSave account to cover 15% of the copayment for the treatment of a chronic illness at a 24-hour clinic.
When To Go To A 24-Hour GP Clinic
Before you decide to go to the emergency room for your injury or illness, you should first consider the urgency of your condition. It's best to go to a 24-hour clinic if you can determine that your health issue is not life-threatening.
For example, maybe you've slammed a door on your finger and are dealing with the onset of swelling and pain. While uncomfortable, this injury would likely not be considered a medical emergency. However, if you want a professional opinion or treatment, your best option is a 24-hour clinic where your general practitioner can treat your wound in-house and direct you to a specialist for further care, if needed.
For more information on where to find your nearest local 24-hour clinic, please visit the Ministry of Health website.
Hospital A&E in Singapore
A&E hospital visits should be reserved for accidents and emergencies only. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's recommended that you do not visit the hospital for non-urgent conditions, so as to conserve resources for those who are facing life-threatening medical issues. In fact, if the hospital A&E determines that your sickness or injury does not require immediate care, then they will likely ask you to wait or redirect you to a clinic for treatment.
A&E Charges and Other Fees
In case of an emergency, you'll be directed to your nearest public hospital, in which high medical expenses will be covered by MediShield Life (not including the ambulance) or your private health insurance. Further, you can expect an A&E fee that covers your doctor's consultation, nursing care and treatment, basic tests, and standard medication up to one week's supply.
|Hospital Name||A&E Fee|
|KK Women's & Childrens Hospital||S$120|
|Tan Tock Seng Hospital||S$128|
|Singapore General Hospital||S$128|
|Changi General Hospital||S$126|
|Ng Teng Fong General Hospital||S$127|
|National University Hospital||S$128|
|Khoo Teck Puat Hospital||S$128|
For some cases without a clear cut A&E fee, you may be charged a specialist consultation fee that depends on the credentials of your doctor, much like a 24-hour clinic. Additionally, you will find varying rates that depend on your citizenship status and whether you are eligible for government subsidies. In general, Singaporean citizens will be charged the lowest consultation fees.
For a first-time consultation, senior consultants (average cost of S$143.64) charge almost 40% more than associate consultants (average cost of S$104.87), and 15% more than a regular consultant (average cost of S$124.90). Similarly, first consultations are less costly than a second or third consultation, which is considered a repeat or follow up meeting with your medical consultant. For example, a first consultation with an associate medical provider is about 32% more costly than the following consultations with the same provider.
Private Hospital Doctors' Inpatient Attendance Fee Per Visit
|General Ward||S$200 to S$300||S$300 to S$400|
|High Dependency Unit||S$250 to S$350||S$350 to S$500|
|Low Intensive Care Unit (ICU)||S$300 to S$450||S$450 to S$600|
For inpatient treatment at a private hospital, a visit from your private hospital doctor will cost you at least S$200 per visit. If you are set up in a general ward, then you can expect to pay between S$200 to $400 for a doctor's visit. On the other hand, you will see a 50% increase in doctor's inpatient attendance fees if your condition requires you to stay in the ICU.
Lastly, if you are going to the hospital for a high priority condition, it is likely that you would stay overnight and receive inpatient treatment. The cost per day to stay in a public or private ward can also add up. For instance, a C ward in a public hospital may only cost between S$33 to S$45 per day, but if you were to upgrade to an A ward, you'd see daily costs between S$303 and S$534. Private hospital wards charge much higher rates between S$240 and as much as S$10,000 for a single night.
While an emergency trip to a hospital A&E can be costly, your total out-of-pocket expenses are greatly influenced by your health insurance plan. By upgrading your health insurance with an Integrated Shield Plan, you can gain access to unsubsidised, private hospitals and ward types like B1 and A in restructured hospitals, as well as a wider range of coverage for pre- and post-hospitalisation costs.
When To Go To A&E
While hospitals can provide you with similar services as a clinic, like blood tests and minor surgeries, an Accident and Emergency centre will only see you if you are considered a high priority case. Medical priority is organized into four levels, with P1 considered the utmost important and P4 considered non-urgent.
A&E Priority Levels
|Classification||Example Medical Conditions|
|Priority 1 (P1)||Resuscitation & Critically-Ill Patients||Heart attack, severe injuries and bleeding, shock, severe asthma attack|
|Priority 2 (P2)||Major Emergencies (Cannot Walk)||Major limb fracture or dislocation, moderate injuries, severe abdominal pain|
|Priority 3 (P1)||Minor Emergencies (Can Walk)||Sprains, minor injuries, minor abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, rashes, and mile headaches|
|Priority 4 (P4)||Non-Emergency||Chronic joint pains or skin rash, long-term nasal discharge, old scars, cataracts, removal of tattoos and sore throats|
Non-emergencies like an old, chronic injury will be considered the lowest priority (P4), while conditions like a heart attack or stroke are considered the highest priority (P1). If your medical status falls into a P3 or P4 classification, it's recommended that you seek treatment at a 24-hour GP clinic, rather than a A&E hospital centre.
Should You Go To A 24-Hour Clinic Or A&E Hospital?
Even though 24-hour clinics and hospital A and E centres have some overlap, they prioritize very different health concerns and services. The choice between a 24-hour clinic and hospital A&E service comes down to the severity of your medical condition. If you are facing a life-threatening medical condition that would fall into priority level P1 or P2, then you should go to an emergency room. But, if you can determine that your condition is not critical and would likely fall into level P3 or P4, then you should visit your local 24-hour clinic for a diagnosis and treatment.
If costs are a significant factor in determining your course of health services, you can consider different methods to save money. Some medical services from a 24-hour GP clinic are covered by personal accident plans and MediSave. On the other hand, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans can help you offset the high costs of hospital bills and treatment from an A&E. Singaporeans who have financial difficulties even after utilising MediShield Life or MediSave can apply for assistance from Medifund after speaking to a social worker at the hospital.