When price is not an issue, ‘hospitel’ is the choice
“Mr. Chairman, welcome to your S$13,000 [US$10,257] per night suite,” I joked to an Indonesian colleague, as a hospital PR officer showed off “The Chairman’s Suite” to a group of journalists here on a Monday afternoon. This is very likely the most expensive hospital room in Singapore.
The executive of the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital (MENH) proudly demonstrated to us the sophistication and opulence of the penthouse, including a private lift and extra rooms for family, guard, secretary or maid of the VVIP patient. The tariff of the “hospitel” (hospital hotel) of course was just for room and other basic services. Medical costs are extra.
The Mount Elizabeth Hospital (affectionately called Mount E), located at the famous Orchard Road area, is very popular among the upper-class Indonesians. It is almost a must for wealthy and powerful people, like former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, to list their names in the health center medical database.
The country’s most expensive hospital is so prestigious that many Indonesians want to make sure that everyone knows where they were treated before their death. When you read condolence notices in national newspapers, the hospital is often cited by the following text, “… passed away at Mount Elizabeth, Singapore”.
The MENH belongs to the same group as the Gleneagles Hospital.
Proper or not, ridiculous or not, do not be surprised when one day you read such a public announcement: “….passed away at the Chairman’s Suite, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital”.
Journalists were invited to stay one night at the new S$2 billion hospital. All rooms are single-bedded except the super-expensive penthouse. My room, was only about S$600 per night. There are a few other hospitals around the Novena area, often dubbed the Novena medical hub.
The objective of the one-patient-per-room strategy is to attract “wealthy domestic patients and premium medical travelers”.
Before going to bed, the hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee Hong Huei had dinner with us. The chef is famous here and the menu is for upper-class people. And patients can order their favorite dishes, all are guaranteed hygienic.
A young nurse explained to me the facilities of the single bedroom, including a bell with three buttons for three different purposes including suffering from pain or you simply want to go to toilet, and to summon nurse’s assistance.
“Do not hesitate to call me if you need me,” the attentive nurse said before bowing her head and closing the unlocked door.
“May I use this button tonight?” I joked to the nurse, pointing to the toilet button alarm. She did not hear, or pretended not to understand, my question.
We were also given the list of doctors who were on call all night for their guests.
The guests had to ‘pretend’ that we were sick, because the hospital was still in the final stages of preparation for full operation, expected later this month. It was practically empty of patients so, hospitalized in one of the most sophisticated and expensive hospitals in Singapore, we were expected to use our imaginations to inflict illness upon ourselves.
The toilet is also super-modern! When you sit down on the bowl, your buttocks are gently warmed, thanks to an electric seat-warming device. The water in the spray is also warm. Be sure to heed the warning of the danger of electrocution if responding to a “call of the nature” while wet.
While there is probably little doubt about the quality of doctors, their equipment and services, competition in medical tourism is getting fierce from neighboring countries like Malaysia and Thailand. Patients from North Sumatra and Aceh will prefer to go to Penang in Malaysia for instance, because the costs are less and the destinations closer.
Dr. Lee was quoted by local media here as saying that, “in terms of patient distribution, we expect about 50 percent of our patients to come from overseas, which is close to what we currently experience in other facilities. The other 50 percent will be probably be locals and residents of Singapore.”
The continual rising of the Singapore dollar against rupiah however, may become a problem. In terms of rupiah, medical costs here are soaring, but doctors believe they can overcome this in a typically Singaporean way.
Dr. Ho Choon Kiat, a specialist in general surgery, acknowledges hospitals can do nothing about the currency issue. What they can do is to continue to increase the quality of the doctor and services to patients.
So if price is not an issue (at all), when you are sick this hospitel is a good choice if you have to travel abroad.
For most Indonesians, the S$13,000 tariff is probably beyond their wildest imaginings, but several Indonesian conglomerates have shown a strong interest in the hospital facilities. The royal families of Malaysia and Brunei are also lucrative sources of guests and the number of visitors from China is also on the rise.
As long as price is not a concern and health recovery is a priority, this tiny island will remain the main attraction for Indonesian patients. Singapore’s medical tourism attracts many Indonesians, and according to media reports Indonesians are on the top list of the visitors.
And as long as the quality and the readiness of Indonesian doctors to serve their patients does not change significantly and our healthcare system remains messy, foreign hospitals will always be attractive for Indonesians.