Writing in a newspaper forum, Michelle Liang Weiting – a doctor – took umbrage with the fact that she was made to pay private patient rates at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), since she was attended to by a trainee doctor and not a specialist.
In her letter, the doctor expressed surprise that there is no department for emergency Obstetrics and Gynecology services at KKH, despite it being the premier hospital for women and children in the country.
She explained that there is instead an urgent Obstetrics and Gynecology centre at KKH, which is where she received treatment. This centre, unlike in other government hospitals with a flat fee for emergency care, charges private consultation fees for private patients on follow up visits, and also for patients who arrive without referral letters from polyclinics.
In other government medical facilities, when patients are attended to by board-certified qualified specialists, they are charged the usual rate for private consultations. However, when it is a trainee doctor who attends to them, they are only charged subsidized rates.
At KKH, Dr. Weiting was charged private rates despite being seen by a registrar, who is actually still undergoing training. The doctor wrote in her letter:
“Patients should not be discriminated against in an emergency setting and made to pay private rates when they are not being seen by a specialist.
“In other government hospitals, the emergency departments charge a flat fee, regardless of previous or current class status.”
She called this practice discriminatory, and added:
“The way that KKH has restructured its charges for the urgent O&G centre makes charging discriminatory against private patients, who are made to pay private rates without being given the specialist consult they are paying for.”
Netizens responding to the letter called on the Ministry of Health to look into the issue: