SINGAPORE: The substantial disparity in waiting times for subsidised patients versus non-subsidised patients at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) has sparked concerns after a Singaporean revealed that he had to opt for non-subsidised treatment for his parents who qualify for government subsidies in order to get them a quicker appointment.
In a forum letter published by the national broadsheet on Saturday (12 Aug), Edwin Goh expressed dismay over the extended waiting period that subsidised patients are experiencing compared to their non-subsidised counterparts as he recounted the challenges he faced when attempting to secure appointments for his elderly parents at the SNEC.
Mr Goh said both his parents were referred to the SNEC for specialist treatment by the polyclinic. His mother suffered from cataracts and blurred vision while his father was grappling with a persistent swollen lower eyelid. Mr Goh called SNEC to make the appointments.
The shock came when Mr Goh was informed that the next available appointment for subsidised patients would not be until September 2024, more than a year away. The SNEC allegedly attributed this lengthy waiting period to a shortage of doctors.
In contrast, the centre indicated that the waiting time for non-subsidised patients was notably shorter, with the earliest available appointment in October 2023 – just three months away. Mr Goh wrote:
“But if I opted for no subsidy, it would have to be “non-subsidised all the way” and my parents would not be able to switch back to being subsidised patients.
“As the waiting time for appointments for subsidised patients is way too long, I had no choice but to go for the non-subsidised route for my parents to get them an appointment as soon as possible.”
Highlighting that the disparity in waiting times may lead to financial implications due to the higher cost of cataract surgery without the appropriate subsidies, Mr Goh called on the Government to “relook the healthcare scheme and subsidies, especially for the elderly, who may not be able to wait long to seek appropriate medical care.”
Mr Goh’s concerns found swift traction online, with a number of Singaporeans decrying the lengthy waiting times for subsidised patients. Some also asked for the rationale behind the policy in which patients cannot switch to the subsidised route after the initial consultation.
Singaporeans online have argued that timely access to medical care should not be contingent upon one’s ability to afford non-subsidised rates and that the elderly population, in particular, might not be able to tolerate prolonged waiting times.
Facebook user Mohd Fahmi said, “This is government hospital. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you should get better treatment.”
Another netizen, Joanne Sim, said starkly: “In Singapore, It’s better for the poor to die than to fall sick.”