Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Medical tourism - Canada vs Singapore perspectives

Here is an interesting piece of Metro Vancouver news. Bold sections highlighted by me.


[Extracted from Vancouver Metro on 10-Apr-2012]

Medical tourism.
Researchers want feds to track Canuck patients

A group of SFU researchers is calling on the government to start tracking Canadians who go abroad for medical care.

"There is literally no way to know how many people are doing this," Valorie Crooks, a leader of SFU Medical Tourism Research Group (MTRG), said.

Though it is impossible to know exactly how many, large numbers of Canadians are receiving medical and dental procedures in countries like Mexico and India, which often advertise specifically to Canadians.

The effects of this practice can be far-reaching.

"You have patients being exposed to different diseases and hospital environments around the world," Crooks said. "We've seen that through the spread of NBM-1 from India to other countries, in part by medical tourists."

Critics also say that medical tourism diverts resources away from the local populations, lures health workers in these destinations away from the public sector, and subjects patients to medical standards that are well below those in Canada.

Americans and Canadians look beyond their own borders for a multitude of reasons, including prices, wait time and access to experimental drugs or procedures.

By Graham Templeton/For Metro


See the bolded sections above. Yet, the Singapore government promoted and is still promoting Singapore as a "Medical Hub" to medical tourists from the region. IMHO, in its healthcare philosophy, the 1st-world Singapore government is no better than 3rd-world countries like Mexico and India cited in the above article.

My GNIE classmates (Graduate Nurse Internationally Educated) told me from experience that in some Indian hospitals, the shortage of staff was so acute that relatives of patients have resorted to bribing nurses to take care of their loved ones. Such bribes add-on to the nurses' take home pay, not unlike waitresses' tips. I hope that healthcare in Singapore will not descend to that level.

As it was, I had observed while working in a private Singapore hospital, some nurses fawning over specific patients whose relatives bring goodies (e.g. basket of fruits, cakes, desserts) for the nurses during the patients' stay. Once, it was even daily goodies from the family of a patient. Sometimes, I laughed it off and joked that we were hungry ghosts [餓鬼]。 Other times, one wonders when/where we cross the line between being polite by showing appreciation for the gifts, and showing preferential treatment to a patient.

Once a rich Bruneian attempted to reward/bribe me for the nursing care that I gave to his child. Initially when I turned down the money, he thought that perhaps the amount he offered was too little, so he took a thick wad of notes from his pocket and pulled out more notes to make another offer (and to be honest, my eyes opened big when I saw his wad of notes). I firmly turned down his offers and suggested that he filled up a hospital feedback form to express his satisfaction instead. Let's just say that from his pleasantly surprised reaction* (and from some murmurs I overheard), I was not the first at that ward to be offered money but perhaps the first to resolutely decline it.

*Note: The Bruneian was so impressed that instead of just filling in the feedback form, he personally spoke to the ward manager about how happy he was with my nursing care and work attitude.

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