I had been thinking about writing this entry since the beginning of the year, but kept putting it off because I felt it was possibly my bias outlook. Finally I got around to this after reading Lucky Singaporean's blog entry on Sickness in Wealth and Poverty.
Singapore does not have universal healthcare. Its ruling political party PAP has given many reasons and excuses for not providing it. In fact, it installed "Means Testing" since the last general election. The rationale given was to prevent the rich from abusing the "public (a.k.a. restructured)" healthcare system by making use of its subsidised wards.
In such an environment, one reads about a respectable 52 year old neuroscientist doctor who needs to raise funds for his own leukemia treatment. Despite his background as a well-known charity fundraiser and years of working as a doctor, Dr William Tan cannot afford medical treatment from the very public healthcare system that he works for.
There are also others who fall through the cracks. For example, the repeated admissions of a 2+ years old patient. This child had operations as an infant due to mal-rotation. Last June, he was admitted and operated twice for ?intussusception. 6 months later in December, he was admitted and operated again for abdomen pain and ?adhesion. By then, the insurance company declared his case as congenital and refused further payment. A week later, the child was re-admitted for abdominal pain and ?obstruction. This time his parents opted to prolong the NBM (Nil By Mouth) observation period as they could not afford another operation. They were a professional couple, born-and-bred Singapore citizens, yet the father told me that going to a public hospital would cost almost the same. Thus they decided to return to my hospital despite their limited budget. Thankfully, after 1 week of nursing care the problem resolved itself and the child was discharged.
Perhaps my nursing kakis are right that Singapore takes care of its destitute poor. [Or does it, really?] However, as the above examples show, the average person is only one calamity away from poverty.
As my friend LC (who was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Hong Kong and Ireland, and worked in Ireland, UK and Singapore) puts it so succinctly in his email to me, coincidently on April's Fools Day in 2009...
"I am afraid, i do agreed with you on Singapore and it is a wonderful place if you don't have to be here forever and you're rich.However, if you are a nobody, you're at a huge disadvantage compared to other nobody in other countries..."
"Why should it be so?" is my question as a "nobody" Singapore citizen. It seems that the answer, for me, lies in migrating to where Universal Healthcare is available.