Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Healthcare is POLITICS

This article is in response to PAP MP Janil Puthucheary, who once opined that his practice of medicine is a kind of "National Service". His article, entitled "Politicising Healthcare leads us down a slippery slope"  was published in Today.

I have ever told a reporter from SPH that EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that concerns the welfare and interests of citizens, ARE POLITICAL. Maybe the Honorable MP Janil Puthucheary should get a basic lecture on Politics 101 here. You cannot just jump into mere policies without going through the scrutiny of politics.

His view put up in this newspaper report has shown how naive and out of the touch he is from the ground reality. He may draw his conclusion that beds along corridors and in tentages are "not the norm" because "official statistics" show that the average occupancy rate is less than 80%. This is the key problem with "elite technocrats" who only try to understand and rule from their ivory towers looking at "statistics" only. They should go down to the ground, the hospitals' A&E departments to take a good look for themselves.

Hospitals in Singapore will most probably NOT "100% full" at any time of the year basically because of the classification of wards we have in our public "structured" hospitals. i.e. there are Class A, Class B1 and B2 beds with Class C beds which will be most likely be 100% full most of the time! The higher class beds will not be fully occupied and these are mostly there to cater to "Healthcare Tourism" in which foreigners with deep pockets will fly all the way here from the region for their medical needs.

Thus it explains the discrepancy between what NORMAL Singaporeans  experienced on the ground and what statistics these elites read from their Ivory Tower. They should have a good look at the BREAKDOWN statistics on the occupancy rates for the different Class of beds instead of giving a false impression of everything is good on the ground!

The photo you see here are from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) shows how bad the situation is. KTPH not only lack sufficient beds in the wards but it also lacks experienced Senior Consultants in its group of doctors. My mother was admitted to KTPH just a couple of weeks ago but our family members were told that some of those patients in the observation ward has been waiting more than a day and yet not able to get a proper bed in the wards. Most have to wait for two days before they can get properly warded.

The condition in these observation wards in the A&E departments are very bad. Beds were squeezed in and put along the corridors if the situation was worse. You may think this only happens in KTPH but no, it is happening all over Singapore. I have friends who have relatives or family members admitted to Changi Hospital, TTSH, NUH, SGH.... etc, all gave this similar account of how bad the situation is.

For my mother, we decided to discharge her "against doctor's advice". The key problem is, do we really have a choice not to discharge her? The THIRD WORLD condition of Singapore hospitals will increase the risk of cross-infections of unknown bacterias and for elderly people of over 80 years old like my mother, just cannot take such risk. After 12 hours of wait, we finally got her discharged.

Elites like the Honorable MP Janil Puthucheary may not experience the same situation ordinary people like us when it comes to critical hospital care because most probably he or his family members could afford private hospital services or Class A beds. MPs and Ministers will have really "PRIVILEGED" treatment whereby you can get admitted immediately with a ward ready for you. But please don't assume that every Singaporeans also enjoy that kinds of privileges you are having.

If we opposition members didn't POLITICISE such matters, I guess people in PAP like the Honorable Janil Puthucheary would still live and dream in their Lala Land that how wonderful and fantastic our healthcare system is.

I just have to keep POLITICISING this THIRD WORLD healthcare system for Singaporeans, First World Healthcare for the privileged few and wealthy foreigners until PAP gets drilled into their heads of how bad the situation is on the ground. And of course, I will also have to remind PAP that after FOUR WHOLE YEARS of EMPTY PROMISES in 2010 from the former Minister for Health, the Honorable Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, situation in public hospitals have not improved BUT most probably deteriorated further!

Hospital care is about LIFE and DEATH to everybody. This is not something PAP and Janil Puthucheary should take lightly and brush it aside as "politicising" or "politicking". Appropriate, adequate and timely hospital care are just too important to people with a medical condition serious enough to be warded. Janil Puthucheary and PAP should not just take it as just another set of "statistics" and digits. These are Human LIVES we are talking about. As a doctor, Janil Puthucheary should know that to pack so many patients in a crowded ward and corridors will subject these patients to dangerous cross-infections of virus and bacterias! How could he just brush aside such problem so lightly?

I have to remind PAP again, all these have to do with the GDP GROWTH AT ALL COST of PAP's 6.9million FT policy as well as the "Cost Recovery" aim of public hospitals' involvement of Healthcare Tourism which eventually resulted in a total neglect in Singaporeans' public healthcare needs. Furthermore, we could possibly build more hospitals and infrastructures easily but doctors need time to groom and gain experience to become Senior Consultants in public hospitals! If we do not expand the capacity of our local universities' facilities and intake of medicine students, I do not see how the whole system can cope with the DOUBLE STRESS in demands from Medical Tourism and aggressive population growth.

Last but not least, if there is a big disaster, be it natural or otherwise, happening in Singapore, I guess our hospital system will eventually crumble and collapse. It will not just a matter of losing face then, but LIVES! AND that that is of course, POLITICAL!

I hope PAP government and the Honorable Doctor MP should stop paying lips service and fantasize on how good our healthcare system is but get down the the HARD TRUTH. Medical Tourism HAS TO BE STOPPED for government public hospitals and those Class A and B wards should all be converted into C class to maximize bed capacity immediately. For those rich and wealthy people who want to "enjoy" better rooms, they could choose private hospitals. If PAP doesn't act fast to correct such prolonged and chronic shortage of hospital beds, it will have to pay the price POLITICALLY. 

Goh Meng Seng

1 comment:

Xianlong said...

They will pay the price. Demographics as u said - aging population will spell their doom.

All these corridor temp beds & how citizens are treated are a great promotional tool. On seeing these pictures on the net, perhaps some medical tourists would get turned off & go elsewhere like Thailand for their treatment.

On his ivory tower statement on healthcare, it also applies to other pap policies. Transfer them to reservists & they would be lucky if even half showed up during recall - who would be dumb to follow orders from elites who had little clue about ground situation?