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During my stay in Singapore, the subject of healthcare comes up quite frequently. That's not a big surprise; having little or no experience as a patient abroad, most expats have a certain amount of apprehension regarding admission to and treatment in a hospital that's not in the country in which they were born or spent most of their lives.
It seems there are two camps when it comes to healthcare in Singapore. Some people claim that private healthcare is the way to go. Others say there's no real difference in actual care received in private hospitals as compared to public hospitals. They believe that healthcare in Singapore is at a very high level regardless of whether you're a private or a public hospital patient.
I haven't got enough experience with the medical care profession in Singapore to claim either of these two options is the better one. But I do know that the generally higher cost of private care does not necessarily equate to shorter waiting times.
Apart from this, I have one personal experience as a recipient of medical care that may be particularly worthwhile to note.
Two years ago, I'd caught a flu that didn't go through its usual phases, i.e. where the symptoms peak after a day or so and then abate over the period of another few days. Instead, my sore throat, headache and fever never reached any sort of intensity. Rather, I just felt generally malaised, and this didn't really improve over a 7 day period. I decided that this flu bug was particularly persistent, and that I needed some medication to jump-start my immune system.
Within minutes of my doctor's appointment, however, I'd been diagnosed with suspected pneumonia. Naturally I was shocked beyond belief; I'd never had pneumonia before and like most people, was under the impression that it occurs primarily amongst the poverty-stricken, the very young or the elderly. That's not the case, apparently anyone can get pneumonia. The objective however, is to get rid of the pathogen as soon as possible because it can do irreparable damage to the affected lung if left unchecked.
My doctor informed me not to worry too much though, that pneumonia is easily cured with antibiotics. And with that, he put me on a cab to the nearest hospital. He did ask me beforehand if I objected that it happened to be a public hospital, but suffice to say that at this point I wasn't going to object to any of his suggestions, let alone one I didn't fully grasp.
At the entrance of the hospital I was greeted by two nurses. One took my temperature (by ear) and ascertained that I had a fever. Literally simultaneously, the other nurse took down my personal details and handed me a face mask to wear. Barely a few minutes later, I was in the waiting room, the quarantine section, awaiting my call to see a specialist.
That call came within 20 minutes. I was examined and sent to the X-ray department, where I waited for about 10 minutes before my X-ray was taken. Within half an hour, my doctor's diagnosis had been proved correct. Fortunately, the infection wasn't severe enough to warrant a stay in the hospital, but I did need to take a week's worth of antibiotics. For good measure, the specialist included some panadol, cough syrup and sore throat lozenges.
Total cost of this exercise, including the medication, was S$75,- A week later I was fine.
My experience may not be proof of anything perse. And I'm not sure how this system works, apart from the fact that the entire procedure was obviously subsidized. But I do know that I was (and still am) quite impressed by the short waiting times and the efficiency and professionalism of both the medical and administration staff of this public hospital.