Subsidy and other Preoccupations
angry doc wonders why so many people who write to the ST Forum use the word 'shock' in their letters, like this writer here:
Switch to 'private patient' gets quick test
I WENT to the polyclinic recently to get a referral to see a specialist as I had symptoms resembling those of colon cancer, and asked that immediate attention be given to my case.
I was shocked to find out that my appointment would be two weeks later.
When I called up the National University Hospital's colorectal clinic to find out the reason, the nurse told me that the doctor's schedule was packed. After much pleading, the staff managed to schedule an appointment for me in a few days' time.
When I went down to see the specialist, he examined me briefly and recommended a colonoscopy. As a subsidised patient, he told me that the earliest he could perform the procedure was in November, about a month later.
Almost immediately, he went on to suggest that if I became his private patient, he could perform a scope and an ultrasound scan for me the next day.
I felt compelled to take the earlier option as I feared for my health. I was then made to sign a form to remain as a private patient for at least a year, paying the private rate throughout the year for any treatment.
After completing the colonoscopy and ultrasound scan, I had to return the following week to collect my ultrasound report. Surprisingly, I had to pay a further consultation fee just to be briefed on the report.
I have the following questions:
- Can a specialist reserve earlier time slots for private patients just because they pay more, leaving subsidised patients to wait in the queue?
- Why are private patients made to commit to paying private rates for one year without the option of going back to subsidised rates?
- Why did the specialist have to charge for the final consultation after the test when he was merely repeating what was in the printed report? If the patient is deemed to be normal after the test, shouldn't the precious consultation time of the specialist be used for another more-needy patient, subsidised or not?
I urge the authorities to allocate health-care resources based on need rather than on one's ability to pay.
James Chi Han-Hsuan
angry doc is glad that Mr Chi's tests were 'normal'.
The underlying question in Mr Chi's letter is about the rationing of healthcare - once you accept the fact that healthcare needs to be rationed, the question then is how it should be rationed. It's an old debate and angry doc is keen to read the reply from 'the authorities'.
angry doc's question for his readers today is not on the rationing of healthcare though, but one of conviction:
If you were morally opposed to the idea that money should buy a person priority when it comes to healthcare, will you, when faced with the *possibility* of a life-threatening illness like cancer, buy yourself priority?
(At the same time, angry doc wonders if he himself, when diagnosed with a cancer western medicine cannot cure, will try an unproven alternative medicine remedy. angry doc hopes he doesn't live long enough to die of cancer though.)