Sunday, April 16, 2006

Treat first, pay later service in private hospitals

A few days ago, the Minister of Health announced that private hospitals must treat emergency cases first before asking for a deposit. On the surface, this is indeed a laudable move, as it seems to have been made in the best interest of the patient suffering from an emergency illness. As doctors, we are duty bound to treat an emergency as an emergency if and when it arises. However, will this be so? Many small points have not been clarified, when the anouncement was made. A few points come to mind quickly,

1. Are all private hospitals in aggreement? Well the fact that it is law should take care of that, I am sure,


2. What constitutes an emergency? Some are very obvious. A patient with obvious life-threatening bleeding, a patient in coma, a patient in shock, these are obvious. What about viral fever with cough and chest pains, or abdominal pain from 10 days of constipation, or dizziness from a 14hour air-flight? Just to mention a few examples.

3. How do we cope with non-emergencies, calling themselves emergencies, just to jump the queue for free, instant treatment? Then the real emrgencies will be kept waiting, and may die.

I wonder if the honourable minister had worked all these out with his staff, before more real emergencies are kept waiting while non-emergency emergencies, insist on being treated for free, just as the honourable minister had ordered.

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