66-year-old Singaporean Sim Choo Chuan’s legs were left to rot for more than two year in 2013 to Nov 2015, because she could not afford the out-of-pocket medical expenses like transport and consultation fees in Singapore. Mdm Sim sought treatment in 2013, but the exorbitant expenses deterred her from seeking treatment.
The conditions of her legs worsen when an open wound on her left calf were infected with bacteria, and the raw, pus-filled wounds spread all over the calf and feet of both legs. The wounds would stank of rotten flesh and she lost 30kg in two years as she lost her appetite from the stank.
Mdm Sim face very difficult financial issues as her husband has dementia and been placed in a nursing home. Her eldest son has been in and out of jail while her youngest son is mentally ill. Her daughter got married and never returned. No one is left to take care of her despite having 4 immediate family members, and she has never left her 4-room-flat for more than a year.
Her nephew, Keith Ng, got a shock when he visited her on Nov 2015, and pleaded for her to visit the hospital which she refused. Through his Facebook, her nephew put up a photo of Mdm Sim’s legs and the post went viral. Surgeon, Steven Kum, was contacted by one of the commentators and treated her legs with an amputation of only her left toes.
Many Singaporean elderly are avoiding medical treatment because of the high cost of out-of-pocket expenses like transport and consultation fees. Most poor people in Singapore decline assistance and help from others as they do not want to impose any troubles on others. Poor people in Singapore live mostly in seclusion as seeking help is publicly deemed a shameful act in the callous society which propagates the Lee Kuan Yew’s favourite tagline, “nobody owes anyone a living”.