There was an article in yesterday’s Straits Times Forum that a particular patient had to wait more than a year for his specialist appointment at SGH.
Upon referral from his polyclinic to see a renal specialist for a worsening blood condition, he was first given an appointment for December 2014.
After many phone calls and pleads, it was moved to August 2014.
One reason given by SGH was that the referring doctor had not marked the case as urgent.
While this could be a mistake by the referring doctor, it is still quite amazing that a person might need to wait more than one year to see a specialist if it is non urgent. After all, you only see a specialist when you suspect there is something wrong. How will you know whether it is urgent or not until it is properly investigated? Can the illness wait?
The situation in our current healthcare system is that the supply of doctors has simply not caught up with demand.
Another problem is the disparity between subsidized and non-subsidized patients. The system is such that someone referred from a polyclinic will be given subsidized status, whereas someone referred by a private GP will be given non-subsidized status.
As it turns out, subsidized patients have a much longer queue compared to non-subsidized patients.
This is because the ratio of patients to doctors in the subsidized pool is much bigger than it is in the non-subsidized pool. One way to mitigate this problem is to merge all the doctors into one pool, and use a First In First Out (FIFO) approach for all patients, whether they are subsidized or not.
While this will obviously benefit subsidized patients, it will also prompt some non-subsidized patients to seek private specialists if they do not want to wait. This might not be the best solution but the present situation clearly needs some tweaking.
In the meantime, I would advise everyone not to rely purely on the basic Medishield, as the coverage is mainly for subsidized wards. This is especially more so for those who are still quite young. Paying $100-$200+ per year from your Medisave to enhance the basic Medishield coverage should be a no brainer.