A forum letter writer has said that he has to wait six months for a specialist appointment even though a ruling party parliamentarian recently said that the median waiting time for subsidised patients has gone down.
Responding to a question by Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh, Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min announced in Parliament last week that the median waiting time for new subsidised specialist appointments has gone down to 22 days in the first half of this year, compared to 28 days in 2013.
“My personal experience did not seem to show this,” said subsidised patient Francis Cheng Choon Fei in a forum letter published by Today.
Mr Cheng, who suffers from chronic neck pain, revealed that he was surprised to be given the earliest appointment date of 23 May 2013 when he visited Changi General Hospital last Tuesday for a specialist appointment under the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas).
When Mr Cheng asked the hospital staff to double-check the date since he “thought it is impossible that the waiting time is so long,” the staff confirmed the date was correct for “subsidised” patients.
The staff member apparently told Mr Cheng to try another public hospital since “the clinic for patients with spinal and neck problems is overwhelmed” but Mr Cheng could not do so since he lives in Tampines and Changi General is the nearest hospital to him.
Mr Cheng wrote: “Going by what I was told, it would seem that priority is given to patients whose bills are not subsidised.”
Asking how Dr Lam could claim that “meeting Singaporean’s healthcare needs remains our priority,” Mr Cheng asserted that treatment for subsidised patients from the pioneer and Merdeka generations should be prioritised.
Noting that the issue of long waiting time for medical appointments has been around for years, Mr Cheng pointed out that WP’s former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang had brought up the perception that subsidised patients are subjected to longer waiting times than non-subsidised patients, in Parliament in 2013 and 2016.
Mr Cheng noted that Mr Low had asked then whether the supposedly longer waiting time for subsidised patients is due to insufficient resources or whether this was how public hospitals regulated demand from subsidised patients.
“The answer, to me, is still pending.” Mr Cheng concluded.
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