Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Singapore needs foreigner to certify a clean bill of health for our health-care system

By Philip Ang

ST editor sensationalised “Thank you, Singapore”, published in the Financial Times on June 7 into “Why Singapore’s health-care system works” (ST, June 9).

Isn’t it delusional to continue listening to foreigners heaping praises on our ‘world class’ (constantly breaking down) public transportation and ‘successful’ (sky-high prices) public housing?

Gillian Tett,  assistant editor and columnist at the Financial Times (FT), had a positive experience a decade ago when Singapore doctors took a medical gamble on her rare form of meningitis. She survived and lived to tell a happy ending.  But there are thousands of patients who ran out of luck even when doctors had not taken any medical gamble to save their lives.

Coincidentally on Page 8 (same day), former Indonesian president Megawati’s husband died in a Singapore hospital.  Would it be fair to claim that Singapore’s health-care system does not work as doctors here were not able to save a man who had complaint of exhaustion, nothing as complicated as in Miss Tett’s case?

Gillian Tett then put 2 and 2 together i.e. she had survived, subsequently read, Professor William Haseltine’s (her friend) book on our health-care system which had recently been published on April 30, so therefore our system works!

Has she read any other books on our health-care system besides her friend’s?  What about accounts from ordinary Singaporeans? Objective journalism?

Below are quotes from Sr Consultant Dr Paul Tambyah:

“As a medical doctor, I come into contact with patients on a regular basis. I hear them tell me that in Singapore, you can afford to die but you cannot afford to get sick”.
“I see people who have to sell their homes and move into rental flats to pay for their medical bills”.
“They are Singaporeans just like the Health Minister and his millionaire colleagues. If they need a bypass, they have to pay much more than $8/- in cash”
Anyway, whether our system works has to be judged by Singaporeans.  Gillian Tett’s one-off experience is totally irrelevant to the thousands who cannot afford to seek medical treatment due to the high cost/lack of insurance.  One swallow doesn’t make a summer.

Glowing tributes paid by rich Indonesians or foreigners do not change the fact that our health-care is out of reach for many.

I would not want to bore readers with more quotes because they will make you sick. And we have been sick for a long time with our ‘first world’ health-care system.  In Prof Tambyah’s words:

“The problems with our healthcare system are known to you all – mostly they are about money”.

ST seems to have run out of articles to publish or perhaps wanted to assure its political masters that all is well despite years of negative feedback from Singaporeans.

As for Gillian Tett, her lack of awareness of serious shortcomings in our health-care system is evident.  I am sure ST readers are not reading the “right” things.


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