“Look at how much I was asked to pay for my medicine. For $299, the pharmacist charged C$0.01!!! – One cent! When I had my stroke in May 2012, the three weeks hospital stay at Vancouver General Hospital, specialist treatment and three months of therapy sessions cost me nothing – zero!”
Ex-Singaporean Wing, having spent his entire economically active life here, has migrated to Canada enjoying his retirement there. He had a stroke recently and was warded in a government hospital in Canada. He claimed that he did not pay a single cent for his week long hospital stay and total treatment costs. He only paid one cent for his medicine. Not only was he shocked, so are we! It’s just simply incredible. But then, he got the receipts and invoices to prove that he is not lying through his teeth. Remember someone said he only paid $8 for his heart by-pass? Is he referring to himself only or the general public? Was he telling the whole truth?
Well, I do not know about the $8 heart by-pass anecdote. But I did come across the shocking truth about our medical system. Let me relate my mother’s recent case.
My mother complained of breathlessness recently. A heart specialist namely Dr Goh YS from Changi Hospital was recommended to her by a relative (mother’s younger brother). She was charged consultation fee more than S$400 in cash! It’s under private treatment – non-subsidy even though it’s a govt hospital cuz she requested for this specialist (recommended by her brother). It’s only less than half an hour of consultation with no medicine prescription.
According to my mother, the nice elderly Dr Goh after examining her and looked through her past medical records and reports which she paid for from Tampines Polyclinic, referred her to more cardiac tests in the same hospital on her next appointment.
When she received the bill, she nearly collapsed of “heart attack!” She was told that if she did not request for any specific doctor, then the consultation fee is usually less than S$100 after govt’s “massive subsidy”!
If you are sick and not feeling well in the middle of the night, you go to any A&E govt hospital, you will be charged a minimum of S$95! The govt polyclinics only operate office hours. The govt says that this is to prevent abuse of A&E in govt hospitals where they cater to more urgent life threatening medical cases. But if you are sick and not feeling well in the middle of the night, where do you go if you don’t go to the A&E? Private clinic or private hospital? Could we afford?
In Wing’s case, if he’s treated in a govt hospital here instead of Vancouver General Hospital in Canada, his MediSave account in his CPF could be wiped out! After he has used up his MediSave, they will ask for his spouse’, children’s or siblings’ MediSave and so on until all their CPF accounts are depleted! If you want any subsidy or help, you will have to go thru so many means testing and jump over many more hurdles before they finally throw some subsidy at you.
We are the third richest country, some say the richest country in the world, yet the government hospital operates as public and private entitities in a brilliant dual system. If you pay, you will get the best treatment. If you don’t pay enough, you will get sidelined – only perfunctory checks are done! They are always asking how are you going to pay for the medical costs the moment you first step into the government hospital. Every citizen knows that. I ever experienced that when I brought my mother few years back for knee replacement surgery in Singapore General Hospital.
The common saying amongst Singaporeans is that “it is better to die than getting warded” in a hospital is not without it’s basis. But if follow Sg Quitter Wing who is living in Canada, that statement “it is better to die than getting warded” is unheard of there. I could imagine that Wing also got a benign heart attack of a gentle and compassionate kind – unlike my mother, when he was told that he need not pay a single cent for his week stay in hospital!
I wonder why Canada could treat her citizens at “zero” medical costs for a week stay in hospital due to a stroke when our medical costs keep going up – galloping higher and higher? Our medisave account in our CPF also keep on increasing every year when our pay has not gone up at all in more than 10 years – as in my case. We are constantly reminded that medical costs will be more and more expensive and that we need to buy more and more medical insurance premiums even though our medisave in our CPF account keep increasing! WTF!
In fact, I have to spend nearly $800 using CPF savings for my father’s NTUC medishield plus “rider” cash of more than $250 yearly. If include myself, my mother’s, son’s and my wife’s extra medishield yearly payments, it’s easily nearly $3,000 off my CPF savings when my annual total CPF total contributions is less than $15,000! Compared to Canada which is not richer than us, is it not illogical? If it is not madness, then pray tell me what is it?
Like most Singaporeans, we are not asking for free handouts. We are not expecting “zero” payment for medical costs. We believe in paying cuz nothing in this world is free. But we also do not expect medical costs to bankrupt us, wiping away all our life savings! My mother’s recent 20 mins of consultation costing more than $400 is an example of the kind of medical costs I’m referring to that will bankrupt us.
Do I have enough for the min sum? Is there any more cash left for me when I retire at age 55 yrs or 62 yrs? What with the HDB loan that I’m paying? Do we benefit from our country’s economic miracle? Ultimately who benefits from this obsessive GDP growth? As citizens, we are still left with nothing after working our entire productive lifespan here. Add to that, there is still this statement that it is better to die than to get warded in our government hospital when money gives you access to better medical treatment. Your citizenship status does not matter here. Unless, you are lucky enough to be like Wing who quits early and is now enjoying his golden years in a foreign land, we are really gone case. There is no hope or future for us here. We are doomed forever.
Yet, this govt is giving S$5 billion loan to IMF, S$30 million a year to foreign scholars, nearly S$400 million spent on Children’s games, S$10 million for new citizens integration programmes, S$2,200 foldable bicycles and few hundreds of dollars of Herman Miller office chairs costing tens of thousands of public money! Shouldn’t public money be used wisely? If only all these monies were diverted to medical spending, do we need to pay through our nose? It pains my heart. Do you feel the same way?