NUH CEO apologises over $19,000 surgery doctor recommended to patient instead of also offering other treatments

NUH / NUH CEO Dr Eugene Liu

The National University Hospital’s chief executive, Dr Eugene Liu, has commented on the cost of surgeries performed at the hospital after an elderly medical doctor recently expressed shock over the “staggering” fees NUH purportedly charged for a 40-minute day surgery.

In a forum letter published by the national broadsheet, 71-year-old general practitioner Dr Wong Kai Peng said that he visited NUH to have the doctors there look into his glaucoma and cataract condition. He was reportedly recommended to undergo day surgery that would take about 40 minutes, without the need to stay in.

The medical doctor shared that he was left disconcerted by the exorbitant fees NUH said it would charge him for such a surgery and decided to approach a different facility: “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.”

NUH CEO Dr Liu responded to Dr Wong’s letter and his concern over the “ridiculously expensive” cost of medical care through a forum letter of his own.

Explaining the hefty $19,000 Dr Wong was charged, Dr Liu said that Dr Wong was referred to a senior eye surgeon at NUH who specialises in glaucoma care. Dr Liu said that the NUH surgeon “recommended treatments that, in his opinion, were suitable for Dr Wong.”

Dr Wong was then given an estimate of the charges. Dr Liu said that the estimate was for a non-subsidised patient based on the complexity of the procedure that would have to be performed under under general anaesthesia by a senior surgeon.

This particular $19,000 surgery that Dr Wong was offered “included both a laser procedure for cataract extraction with implant and glaucoma surgery with another implant.”

Dr Liu said that the reason the Singapore National Eye Centre’s (SNEC) offered Dr Wong a significantly lower charge of $9,000 is because they “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.”

Dr Liu apologised since the NUH surgeon did not inform the patient about other treatment options that were available to him. Revealing that the surgeon has been counselled, Dr Liu assured the public that there are treatment options available to them based on their needs:

“While professional opinions in what constitutes the most appropriate treatment for an individual patient may sometimes vary, the surgeon should have informed the patient about other treatment options, as well as the associated costs.

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

Read Dr Liu’s letter in full HERE.

Dr Wong’s original letter decrying the high cost of medical care in Singapore gained traction online since it came after it was revealed that the SNEC charged an 82-year-old Singaporean over $12,000 for cataract operations for both his eyes. After government subsidies, Mr Seow Ban Yam needed to pay $4477.

The elderly Singaporean, who expected that MediShield Life would cover 90 per cent of his post-subsidy bill, was left shocked when the national health insurance scheme only paid out $4.50 of the $4477 cash bill.

The case caused severe backlash against MediShield Life and SNEC, prompting SNEC to promise to cut charges for complex surgeries.

Elderly medical doctor shocked at “staggering” fees NUH and SNEC charge for 40-minute day surgery

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