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Dr Chia’s comment on long wait for free healthcare distasteful and unsubstantiated

Image - TODAYOnline screen grab
Image – TODAYOnline screen grab

By Juliet Low

Dr Chia Shi-Lu from the People’s Action Party said during one of his election rallies that citizens living in welfare states, such as Britain, are still not free of worry, explaining: “For instance, if you have cancer, treatment may be free, but you might have to wait (until) next year or even the year after.”

This is a distasteful comment that is unsubstantiated and lacking of sense.

I am a Singaporean who have lived in the UK for seven years and have been a humble recipient of good and free healthcare, and will now speak on behalf of the NHS in the UK.

There is no good sense in suggesting that any doctor under any jurisdiction would risk a lawsuit by placing high risk patients, such as those with cancer, on a waiting list for a year or two.

Contrary to Dr Chia’s belief, it is common knowledge that the NHS is excellent in its care in chronic health conditions. I have to check my bloods every two weeks due to chemotherapy and they do not scrimp on these types of expenses.

For my diabetes, I get six-monthly consultations and my yearly eye and foot exam. I can request to see a psychologist and dietitian at any point. I have never been disappointed. In fact, the NHS even invests in free yoga, singing and community-based classes for its patients to maintain their emotional health.

What is less effective for the NHS is typically the low risk patients with one-off issues or accidents, such as a hip replacement. Here lies the conundrum. Would you prefer to have your treatment free, but you may have to wait almost a year? Or would you prefer to pay (even Medishield Life requires an excess to be paid for treatments) to get quicker treatments?

Well, if you have the money for it, it is unlikely to be an issue. However, for some surgery that could cost upwards of S$20,000, even a 20% excess charge is unaffordable for many. My father used to say “you can die in Singapore but you cannot get sick”. This statement still holds true and it is sad.

All that Dr Chia got right is that if you can afford to pay, you can get your treatments sooner. That is true in any country. It is not a credit he can claim for the government.

Suggesting that cancer patients could be placed on NHS waiting lists of a year or longer is untrue and certainly inflammatory. He should publicly apologise for making this very uneducated statement.

Ms Juliet Low and a group of overseas Singaporeans earlier sent a petition to the Health Minister regarding the government’s decision to make it mandatory for overseas Singaporeans to contribute to Medishield Life despite them being fully covered while living overseas.