Patient: SNEC charges only $9,000 but NUH wants to charge $19,000

Last Tue (15 Jan), an elderly doctor, Dr Wong Kai Peng, 71, wrote to ST Forum complaining about the shocking fee charged by NUH (‘Shocking fee quoted for quick surgery‘).

He shared that he had an operation at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) recently.

“Though I am fully covered by private insurance, I find the cost of medical care in Singapore ridiculously expensive,” he said.

“On recommendation I first went to the National University Hospital (NUH) to have my glaucoma and cataract condition looked into.”

He was then recommended by NUH to get a day-surgery for his eye operation so as to have his cataract removed. He was also recommended to have a pump inserted into his eye to relieve the pressure inside to treat his glaucoma condition.

Dr Wong revealed, “The fee quoted was a staggering $19,000. I was very uncomfortable with what I would be charged and decided to seek a second opinion at the SNEC, which quoted me a fee of $9,000.”

He wrote to ask publicly:

  • Why are the surgical fees that high, given that the operation was not complicated and would take only 40 minutes? Perhaps it is due to the expensive implants?
  • Why is there such a huge disparity in prices between NUH and SNEC?

“This episode is highly relevant given the recent fracas at the SNEC concerning MediShield Life payout, even though my case is completely private and has no government subsidy,” he said.

NUH CEO: Difference in pricing due to different treatment options

Today (24 Jan), NUH CEO, Dr Eugene Liu, finally responded on ST Forum (‘Surgery charges depend on treatments offered‘).

NUH CEO replied that the senior eye surgeon who treated Dr Wong was of the opinion that the treatments recommended were suitable for Dr Wong.

With regard to the estimated fees quoted in Dr Wong’s case, they were based on “a complex procedure performed under general anaesthesia by a senior consultant that included both a laser procedure for cataract extraction with implant and glaucoma surgery with another implant”, the NUH CEO said.

“We understand that SNEC had recommended a different treatment option, without a laser procedure and with a different glaucoma implant. This resulted in lower charges than NUH’s estimate.”

But the CEO also noted that while professional opinions in what constitutes the most appropriate treatment for an individual patient may vary, the senior surgeon should have informed Dr Wong about other treatment options, as well as the associated costs.

NUH CEO apologised for the shortcoming.

“We apologise for this and have counselled our surgeon on this matter,” he said. “We would like to assure the public that treatment options are available to patients based on their conditions and needs.”