I do not like to bitch about life because I do not wish to waste my time on things that do not deserve my time and energy. But sometimes, I just cannot help it. I mean, I am a human after all and we have to release our frustration. I would like to bitch about a recent incident but trust me, it is relevant to personal financial planning, and not some random rant. The incident taught me about the importance of paying more for an insurance plan which covers private hospital charges.
It goes like this. My mum complained of a sharp and nagging shoulder pain on one side and the pain pulsated down the arm to her fingers. She is a strong woman who never complained about hard work and has a high tolerance of pain. It must have hurt so much that she wanted to see a doctor urgently.
I was wondering where to bring her to? I suspect she would need an X-ray to ensure she has no bone problem, and most importantly, to arrange an appointment with an orthopaedic. I reckoned it would be faster to go to the hospital since the facilities were readily available. I was contemplating to send her to a private hospital as the waiting time would be shorter but as cost was a consideration, we decided on Singapore General Hospital instead.
We were prepared to wait. It was about 5 hours before we get to see the doctor and it was worth the wait. An X-Ray was done and she did not have any bone problem. It could be some nerve compression. She got her medicine and schedules for physiotherapy and an orthopaedic appointment. The orthopaedic appointment was 5 months away and she was given a week’s dose of medicine. We were told she could get more medicine at the polyclinic if required, and a letter was given to us.
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A week passed and my mum still needed medication to ease the pain. Hence, I went to the polyclinic to get the pills. To my disappointment, the pharmacist told me the letter was not a prescription and they did not have my mum’s record since the system was not integrated. I was shocked to hear that considering Geylang East Polyclinic and Singapore General Hospital were both part of SingHealth!
Reluctantly, I went to Singapore General Hospital to get the medicine from the pharmacy. The registration counter staff told me the same thing – it was not a prescription! I explained to her my mum was still in pain and the orthopaedic appointment was 5 months away. She couldn’t possibly endure the pain for so long. Moreover, we were told we were able to get the prescribed medicine and hence, we did not question the doctor why my mum was only given a week’s dose. She clarified that A&E doctors could only issue up to two weeks dosage. She said she could not help and suggest my mum to visit a doctor elsewhere or visit the A&E again.
I find it ridiculous that A&E doctors are not given the power to prescribe a dose that would cover the waiting period preceding the specialist appointment. Well, the hospital may have good reasons for that but I do not think it is helping the patients at all. It definitely doesn’t make sense to visit A&E and put more load on the staff to get another week of medicine.
Anyway, this case was a small issue and hence not claimable under Medishield or any private shield plans. What I wanted to highlight is that I was disappointed with our public healthcare system. I know they worked very hard. I pity the volume of patients they have to handle. It wasn’t the staff’s fault and the processes needed review. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to wait for them to get their act together. This incident reminded me that we should pay for the best integrated plans that cover private hospital expenses, as long as we can afford the premiums. In a life threatening situation, we would not want anything to screw up and it is always better to have the option to go public or private hospital without the need to worry about costs.
You can compare the types of hospitalisation plans at MOH’s website.