Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic doctor and staff went beyond their call of duty to support Raymond Anthony Fernando’s wife who was in severe distress/pain

“I expect to pass through this life but once.  Therefore, if there be any kindness I can show, or good things I can do for another human being, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.

- William Penn -

The above caption by William Penn which motivates us to show kindness to those who are suffering from chronic illnesses is worth practising given that we are living in an unpredictable world.  An unpredictable world calls for us to prepare ourselves for uncertainties and become more predictable.  To help our brothers and sisters who are finding it so hard to cope. 

Indeed kindness showed in its full glory when Executive Officer - Miss Kat, Nurse Manager Ms Nirmala and Dr Wong attended to my wife, Doris yesterday afternoon (Wed 6th June 2012 from 1.30pm to 3.30pm) at the Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic.

I spoke to Kat early in the morning explaining my wife’s fragile mental state following the severe pain which she has been experiencing over the last few days from her advanced arthritis condition.   Kat, Sister Nirmala and Dr Wong have read a lot about my wife’s battle with schizophrenia and my struggle in caring for her all by myself for more than 3 decades.  They full understand how tough it is for a caregiver to take care of a loved one suffering from a serious mental disorder like schizophrenia. They displayed much empathy.

Kat briefed all staff managing the various stations – the lab where she had to have her ECG, the registration counter, etc. so that Doris will not have to wait longer than necessary. Kat had a late lunch that afternoon - a clear indication that she wanted to fully support my wife and uplift both her and myself.

When we arrived at the clinic at 1.30pm, Kat got another female staff to provide a wheelchair for my wife and the ECG went smoothly. Doris was frightened to go for the ECG at first because the last time she went for the test she had to climb a bed that was pretty high, and she was worried sick that she would fall. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the new bed that is now used for patients to take their ECG is very much lower – tailored, I guess to prevent the elderly from falling off the bed.  I’m glad that the management of the Polyclinic is receptive to feedback and is constantly looking out for improvements to raise the level of service that will benefit her patients.  More importantly, Government agencies must view feedback as a communication tool to improve service levels, and not view issues raised as complaints, which, regrettably is often the case.

Dr Wong, the lady doctor who saw my wife was exceptionally kind. She was not there just to prescribe her diabetic and cholesterol medications.   She went beyond that - comforting Doris and taking pains to explain and advise her on her conditions, assuring her that despite all her ailments she was blessed to have a husband like me to care for her. Dr Wong even recommended prune juice for my wife to resolve the constipation problems she was facing. Her advice was excellent! My wife this morning managed to clear her bowels.  Doris was uplifted – she knows that there are indeed people that care and feel for her.

After the consultation was over, Dr Wong even took the trouble to wheel my wife out of her room and told us to come back if and when we needed medical care.  

Dr Wong had gone beyond her call of duty and my wife and I are so touched by a professional who is able to show compassion, understanding, love and support for those who are in less than fortunate circumstances. She is a model doctor that others in her profession should emulate.  It is no exaggeration to document that this doctor is a shining example of one who shows a humane face.  Such qualities are rare these days.   

Providing medical care that goes beyond prescribing medications can help make a BIG difference to those who suffer in silence.

I do raise issues that are unsatisfactory, but I will also be the first to acknowledge when service is exceptional - as in this case.  

There has been a prediction that my wife will pass on 6 years from now, so I will ensure that she gets the best care- whether it is from me or from all those services she badly needs.  For it’s the only decent thing left to do.

Kindly convey my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the staff concerned – especially Dr Wong. My wife is still going through severe pain, but it helps when healthcare workers show love, understanding and the willingness to render assistance without “going by the book.”  Indeed, flexibility must be incorporated in our healthcare system so that patients are not being pushed from one place to another – especially those who have severe mobility problems. Hospitals need to learn this.

Thank you.


Raymond Anthony Fernando
Reply from CEO of NHG Polyclinics, Mr Leong Yew Meng:

"Dear Raymond
I am very happy to learn about your postive experience at AMK Polyclinic. 

Your compliment is certainly a big morale-booster to my colleagues working at the clinic.

We are very proud of many of our outstanding and dedicated staff at NHG polyclinics despite the challenging work environment they have to face daily.

We have always been reminding our staff the importance of seeing our patients as people with unique issues and challenges, and not just a figure.

I am extremely pleased to learn that staff who rendered service to you and Doris have lived up to this service expectation.

You may like to know that Sister Nirmala whom you mentioned in your blog, recently won the Annual Healthcare Humanity Award.

Please also allow me to introduce Dr Karen Ng and Dr Djoni Huang who are the two leaders of this excellent team at AMK Polyclinic.

Karen is the Head and Djoni is the Dy Head of AMK Polyclinic.

Thank you.

Best of health to you, Doris and all in the family.

Leong Yew Meng"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When will my wife's suffering end?

My wife, Doris was crying so much this evening cos' of the intense pain she is getting from her severe arthritis condition. Besides her knees being so weak, the arthritis is also attacking her wrists , her back and she has difficulty bending her wrists. There is a real danger that she can fall into a relapse of her schizophrenia if the pain is not managed properly.

I will have to rush down to a private doctor in Mount Elizabeth to get her a better quality pain killer- Ultracet, so that it can help- hopefully. Very difficult to get an earlier appointment to see the doctors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital because they will not see patients outside their scheduled appointments- even if the patient is is suffering in pain. They will push the patient to the A & E where one waits hours on end. This is the pathetic state of our healthcare system. No empathy for the sick and their suffering caregivers.

Two Lions Befrienders who was at our home & witnessed Doris crying ,were supportive and felt for her as well as for me. They tried to comfort Doris as well as myself. At the end of the day, it all boils down to showing a humane face, to feel the pain of a human being suffering.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Raymond's letter to TNP: Struggling seniors need more support

My letter on the above subject is published in The New Paper today, Monday 4th June 2012, page 19.

I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Reader Allan Zheng about Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s remarks on choosing a younger candidate to enter Parliament (“Why make candidate’s age an issue at all- The New Paper, May 28).

Many of our seniors are finding it so hard to secure jobs and many are struggling to cope with rising medical costs. 

So it does not help when a senior politician makes such comments that may see more employers discriminating against the elderly. 

During the election campaign, Mr Gerald Giam of the Workers’ Party also raised concerns about Medishield premiums and payouts.

I have been paying Medishield premiums for both myself and my wife since its inception, but we find it so difficult to make a claim.

Recently, I needed a colonoscopy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and was charged $484.50, but was told that I cannot claim a single cent from Medishield because the scheme is only for operations and bigger bills.

There have been other instances where both my wife and I could not make similar claims. What is the point of paying premiums year after year when no claims can be made for such medical expenses?

There must also be greater transparency on Medishield premiums so that account holders can easily find out from their annual CPF statements how much they have paid.

For senior citizens, the rising medical costs are indeed worrisome.  For instance, there are no subsidies for some non-standard medications such as Glucobay for diabetes, which can cost as much as $78 for three months.

The Government needs to provide more support for this group of citizens who have contributed to the economy in the past.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rising medical costs a big worry for our elderly citizens

Workers Party Member of Parliament, Gerald Giam made a very valid point during the party’s By-Election election rally when he mentioned that Medishield had collected 130 million in premiums, but the payouts were so little.  I fully agree with Mr Giam’s observation on the payouts- indeed  the payouts are  very little.  

I have been paying medishield premiums for both myself and my wife since its inception, but we find it so difficult to make a claim. Recently, I went for a colonoscopy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and was charged $484.50, but was told that I cannot claim a single cent from medishield because the scheme is only for operations and bigger bills. This scheme needs to be reviewed so that more of our older citizens can benefit from the paying insurance at an affordable cost. The Government needs to understand that many of our elderly citizens are retired and are living on their hard earned savings. On top of that the cost of living is skyrocketing.

There have been other instances where both my wife and I could not make similar claims. What is the point of paying premiums year in and year out when no claims can be made? There must also be greater transparency on medishield premiums paid through the annual CPF statements so that account holders are aware of how much they have paid. This has never been done. Why is this so?

For senior citizens, the rising medical costs are indeed worrisome and the government needs to provide more support for this group who have contributed to the economy in the past.

There are no subsidies given on non-standard drugs for some medications such as Glucobay, which can cost as much as $78 for 3 months supply.  A bottle of 200ML Lactus purchased at the polyclinic cost $1.40 while the same amount purchased at Tan Tock Seng cost $3.50.  So why the big difference?  Blood tests for patients suffering from diabetes at polyclinics have shot up from $12 to $13.50, and nobody notices it until they scrutinise the bill.

The Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic is being renovated to meet demand and in about 2 years’ time, a bigger one will be built at another site to accommodate a larger population. Will be cost be passed onto the patients? Time will tell.

We work all our lives to enjoy our retirement, and in the end when we grow old and fall sick, a large chunk of our money is passed back to the Government in the form of expense and rising medicals costs. Little wonder that more and more of our citizens are find it so hard to cope.

Psychiatric patients cannot buy health insurance for their physical illnesses because no insurance company wants to cover them even for non-psychiatric illnesses. Is this what an inclusive society is all about?