Responding to a complaint where a patient was charged double the consultation fees for two ailments in a single visit, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said such profiteering practice is “nothing wrong”. A patient went to a neighbourhood clinic in Whampoa Drive for stomach pain and sore throat, and she was charged S$40 consultation fee for each ailment and a S$32 for medicine – she paid S$112 in total. Although the clinic specified that it charges S$50 for a longer consultation, the patient was instead charged for two “short consultation” at S$40 each.
When interviewed by the media, the doctor of the clinic, Dr Wee Chee Chau, said that he is “not just a general practitioner” so his charges are higher. Dr Wee also sarcastically defended his abnormal charging practice saying, “There had been no mistake. When you have two problems, it’s like seeing a doctor twice. I can’t tell you offhand, but it (consultation charges) won’t be in the thousands of dollars.” Checks with other clinics confirmed that there is only one consultation charge for one visit regardless the number of ailments.
The Ministry of Health also defended Dr Wee, saying there is nothing wrong charging consultation fees based on the number of ailments in a single visit:
“GPs are private providers within our larger healthcare system. Clinic charging varies across clinics and patients, depending on multiple factors. These may include the complexity of the patient’s condition, the length of consultation, the type of treatment and medication provided, and the cost structure of the clinic, including rental and other overhead costs.”
Healthcare affordability in Singapore is a serious problem with many Singaporeans especially the poor having to choose between seeking medical treatment or paying the utilities bill. There is no free healthcare and medical expenses in Singapore are among the highest in the world. Healthcare for citizens is self-funded through the CPF Medisave, and patients who exhausted their Medisave will have to pay their hospital fees in cash or face hounding private debt collector contractors engaged by the government.