Six months’ wait – just to do a scan

Yvonne Leng /

I had gone to a polyclinic in mid-February and requested to do a MRI scan for my chronic backache which gave me agonizing pain and was affecting my sleep and temperament. I was first given a slot in early April to see the orthopaedic doctor. I asked for the earliest slot possible and was told that was the earliest date. I had managed my expectations well, knowing it would take 2-3 months before I can see the doctor. So I waited.

Come March, I was notified that my appointment had been postponed to almost another 2 months later, from early April to end of May instead. I wasn’t given any explanation; just a SMS and a letter that they “regret” to inform me that my appointment had been rescheduled.

I decided to do the scan at a private hospital and got a slot the very next day. Results were out the following day too. This kind of efficiency costs me S$1,000 excluding the treatment sessions averaging about S$100 per half an hour. I too accepted it, because it was a non-subsidised hospital.

6th May 2011, one day before election, I received a sms from CGH that my orthopaedic surgery appointment @ Changi General Hospital (CGH) had been once again delayed – for a second time. This time round delayed another 3 months from the already delayed date – end of August.

More than 6 months to see the doctor, just to do a scan? This is ridiculous, unacceptable and simply insane. I do not actually need to see the doctor anymore, but I am really mad.

I called the hospital and demanded an explanation. I was really really mad. And to my surprise, the operations manager reverted back to me within 3 hours and offered me an appointment slot that was just a few days later.

I was very impressed with her professionalism and efficiency. But somehow this made me even more angry. If I were one of the poor, uneducated, non-complaining Singaporeans or one who does not know which channel to go for help, I would have to accept these delays in seeking medical treatment? Is it because my condition is not life threatening that I have to accept this kind of unprofessionalism and inefficiency? Or are the poor and weak supposed to have higher threshold for pain and their lives are not as worthy as the rich?

I have since written to Ministry of Health and the Straits Times forum page. I have yet to hear from them. I am very sure a lot of people are facing the same problem. And as a fellow Singaporean, (not trying to be label as a typical complaining Singaporean) I think I have to voice out and make attempts to rectify issues like this.

And convey the message that our healthcare system has a lot of room to improve on. I sincerely hope Ms Tin Pei Ling and Mr Khaw Boon Wan – both of whom espoused the affordability and efficiency of our healthcare system – will be able to read this and make sure what needs to be rectified will be rectified.

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Picture from the History Society.