Monday, June 21, 2010

Khaw Boon Wan and his heart attack....

"It was in March that Mr Khaw, who professed to have been "fit as a fiddle" with normal cholesterol and blood pressure levels, discovered - during a scan for calcium deposits in the heart - that he had a serious problem." - Today, 28 May 2010. [Link]

A few weeks ago, I went to the market to buy some char siew but the stall I go to regularly was closed. I asked the stall keeper at the adjacent stall if he knew when the char siew seller would be back. He said NEVER. ...the meat seller had collapsed and died at few days ago at home of a heart attack. Heart attacks are not so unfamiliar to me since my family (father's side) is prone to it, however, that meat seller was younger and healthier looking than me and that was a wake up call.

"I was in denial ... it was sheer stupidity" - Khaw Boon Wan

Last Saturday I had a very bad sore throat and went to see the neighborhood doctor. Mindful of what happened to the meatseller and Minister Khaw, I enquired about doing a checkup at the clinic. The doctor told me I can do an under $100 one with the usual cholesterol and various tests. Gee, I remembered that Minister Khaw had the heart attack when his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were normal so I asked the doctor if I can have the calcium test ..."same one as minister Khaw". I've learned Minister Khaw's lesson and will not be 'in denial' and will not be 'stupid'. The doctor looked at me and said he had never recommended the calcium test to anyone because it costs more than $1000 (anyone knows better please correct my doctor on this). Yes, the cost picking up the crucial life saving warnings is not cheap in Singapore....heck it is hard not to be stupid. I'll do the under $100 tests soon but I'm still thinking about the calcium test. The doctor located at the HDB heartlands doesn't recommend the calcium test to anyone because the cost is just too high for ordinary folks. In fact, many lower income folks probably don't even have annual checkups and their illnesses (diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease etc) are only discovered when it is too late. The PAP style of medical care is to pass all the cost of preventive care to ordinary citizens. Many cannot afford such tests because of the rising cost of living and the outcome can be devastating for some of the poor folks.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan took good care of himself - exercising regularly and, I suppose, eating healthy food - yet he was struck by a heart attack. People can do what is within their means to stay healthy but illness can never be eliminated. So for the thousands of poorer Singaporeans who cannot afford preventive care such as annual checkups, they are asked to shoulder a responsibility that they cannot afford to shoulder and ultimately the consequences and eventual cost to our society will be even larger when the person is struck by debilitating illnesses and needs even more medical care - the effects of many diseases can be mitigated through early detection and a sensible approach to healthcare. In 2001, the then Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang was asked to allow the use of Medisave funds (which is our own money in the first place) for screening procedures, in particular, screening for breast cancer. His final say in parliament on that matter was "Save on one hairdo and use the money for breast screening". ...and he was known as "hairdo Lim" from then on. We have a govt that has billions in reserves and pays itself millions...it also spends billions on defence. However, spending money to save the lives of Singaporeans who cannot afford preventive care such as breast cancer screening and various from of preventive care is not considered a top priority for this govt. It took almost 10 years and a new minister to consider allowing medisave for mammograms[Link] but so much more needs to be done and it cannot get done if the govts interest is to keep the healthcare expenditure at single digit (% wise) of GDP by shifting as much of the healthcare burden to individuals ....and all this to keep taxes of our millionaires and billionaire low while we have the highest income disparity in the developed world.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Check this out http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-scan/MY00327, heart scan/calcium scan is not usually recommended

hearty said...

Tax payers like me would have preferred Khaw to kick the bucket.
Natural elimination of overpaid self serving MIW without the need to exercise my vote,
especially the father and son.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Khaw ever spared a thought for ordinary Singaporeans who do not have the best medical cares that he enjoys at the tax payers' expense?

Not to forget that during his rehabilitation, he continues to enjoy the S$3 million a year tax-payers-funded salary.

He has all the reasons to smile and stays positive.

Wally Buffet said...

"He has a certain balance and poise......an equanimity about him. He is a person who can handle anything"

Above is an accolade about our honourable health minister given by his honourable colleague.

Gee, I would also have all of Mr. Khaw's wonderful attributes if all my medical expenses are well taken care of and there is an annual salary of $3 million bucks into the account. Not to mention that he had superlative care because.......well, because he happened to be the health minister.

Comprendo hombre?

Anonymous said...

"Minister Khaw Boon Wan took good care of himself - exercising regularly and, I suppose, eating healthy food - yet he was struck by a heart attack."

Sometimes its just Karma at work when one do all these evil biddings for his evil masters for the sake of wealth.

Anonymous said...

in future, only the rich can afford medical costs here. anyone not belonging to the category of cheaper, better and faster will not be given a chance.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is part of God's plan. Nobody likes to be sick or becomes ill on purpose! Now he understand better the plight of the ordinary people, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Ordinary people just don't get taken care of even though they pay Medisave and Medishield premiums regularly. Recently, The Medisave Required amount was again raised. If I am not mistaken it is now $30,000. I wonder if I wanted to spend $1,000 from my Medisave to sacan my heart for calcium deposits, will I be allowed to? I was discharged from National Heart Centre for mild Mitral Valve Prolapse and I don't think it is easy to have heart check-up. Of course, I am just an ordinary citizen whose Medisave is carefully kept by Govt. If I pop, who will all that MediSave benefit?

Anonymous said...

"Now he understand better the plight of the ordinary people, I suppose."

What understanding? KBW doesn't even need to beg boss for time-off to do medical checkup -- he can do it any working day, any working hour. He has senior professors as his doctors who are constantly calling his secretary to make immediate appointments & begging him to have medical checkups.

He gets $3+M per year and doesn't even need to pay a single cent for checkups, consultation, surgeries, medicines, follow-ups, physiotherapy, etc etc. He gets immediate attention, respect & fawning that average Joe will not receive even if you pay for A-class ward. Can you get immediate appointment with Chief Medical Officer & CEO of any hospital today, like KBW can?

When the hospital immediately arranged for KBW's "emergency" heart bypass, did they kick away another operation that is deemed "less urgent"?

No, the only way for him (and any other MIW) to really understand the plight of ordinary people is if he had got a massive stroke and became 75% paralysed. I.E. a situation that no amount of money or special preferential treatment can undo.

Anonymous said...

hey Lucky! i saw this article some time ago... Khaw's views on medical care (i.e. "accept your mortality.." [that is, within your economic means]) are well enunciated here:

http://www.asiaone.com/print/Health/News/Story/A1Story20100403-208204.html

"Singapore's aim is to keep the percentage of GDP spent on health care at a single digit, which he said would be a remarkable achievement.

The minister said the way forward lies with people having a strong sense of personal responsibility for their own health.

Older patients also need to ask if they truly require the services of multiple subspecialists.

Finally, they have to accept their mortality and the limits of medical science."

this kind of says everything..........

Cheers,
J

run road said...

Those creatures comfortably sat at the head of the table have ensured that they cannot be easily dislodged from leeching off you and I and for good reason. Do you realise that they enjoy the kind of privileged lifestyle that even a multi-millionaire would be hard-pressed or find impossible to copy?

How many tycoons do you know of who can commandeer a publicly-owned Boeing to be instantly taken out of commercial service and set up as a flying hospital for their WIFE who isn't even a government employee? All done at PUBLIC EXPENSE and thank you very much - here's a $30 annual increment as a gesture of thanks.

Which rich businessmen get the red carpet treatment, auto-upgrade to first class everything and the full panoply of attention from the country's ambassadors wherever they go in the world? Can the world's wealthiest man, Bill Gates, order the incarceration of his rivals without charge or trial for 32 years? Does Warren Buffett have the power to lose the staggering sum of $100b of YOUR money with complete impunity? How many billionaires get stents, pacemakers, a team of top-of-the-line surgeons waiting on them hand and foot 24/7/365 - totally free of charge?

If it was in your power to have a minimum salary of $3-4 million all the working days of your life with a 2/3 final salary pension for what is in effect a part-time job in Singapore, would YOU ever want to give it up without a fight to the death? You'd be mad to do so. Since they all have multiple company directorships and seats on boards by leveraging their ruling positions, that salary is likely only the tip of the iceberg. We haven't even considered the medical benefits provided completely FOC, irrespective of cost. Have you ever wondered who's paying the astronomical price for keeping Mrs. LKY alive? I have.

This is nothing new for totalitarian nations. The leaders of the PRC have their own organic farms, beauty salons, medical facilities, walled and guarded residences,..... and they live lives utterly removed from the common peasant. No chance of them ever tasting melamine-contaminated milk, no sir. Why do you think most live extremely long and healthy lives like 84-year old Jiang Zemin?

Our own home-grown saviours are cut from identical cloth. Wanna bet that Khaw Boon Wan never ONCE stayed up night worrying about paying $1000 for a calcium scan or $15000 for bypass surgery plus an indeterminate amount for convalescence?

So next time you begin to feel sorry for one of these privileged paragons of virtue when he gets up on his hind legs to whine about the financial and personal sacrifices he has had to endure to serve the people, do feel free to sympathise, lean over, and vomit.

Anonymous said...

Hi hearty, hear hear, you are not alone and you took the words right out of my mouth. I too would have preferred that turd to kick the bucket too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Lucky

Weren't you a big fan of Ministar "Pious Buddhist" Khaw? C'mon. You are Lucky Tan! You are always correct!

Have you found your 6 selfless atheists to save Singapore yet? Maybe the mythical selfless atheist is enjoying his af-pak weed at Obama's unicorn ranch?

Btw I read PAP now have 6000+ Ah Nehs and Ah Tiongs grassroots leaders. But hey dun sweat it. I think its more important to bash Christianity now that its on its knees. Or maybe worry about how another freak flood will spoil your shopping?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Lucky

Psst ... STI 2885. Dow 10450. You want to revise your prediction? Maybe u meant the stock market will crash after the world cup and the low may or may not be lower than the MMM-20YY low?

Anonymous said...

dun tink khaw had heart attack. it was just some breathlessness or something

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky,

if you think that you are prone to the heart attack ( or CAD), pls don't eat those "healthy food". I am not kidding. Check Gary Taubes's book (good calories and bad calories). He is credible journalist, who wrote frequently for Science.

Those "healthy foods" are mostly rich of carbohydrate, which will raise your triglyceride level, leading to inflammation of your artery.

Since you are regular reader of scientific journal, I guess Gary Taubes's book will be a great read for you. He has summarized most of the research in relation between food and heart attack.

There is long discussion thread on my car forum on this issue (http://www.mycarforum.com/index.php?showtopic=2647027).

Anonymous said...

Had read the thread recommended by the 1st Anon.

Hence I think the calcium scan alone may not be useful or necessary. Unless you also have pre and post followups by doctors. The total costs added up will definitely be much more than $1000 calcium scan.

No wonder doctors don't recommend it. The cost++++ alone will scare most ordinary mortals.

Inside his heart, Lucky's doctor might even thought Lucky was naive by wanting the calcium tests like KBW did. What, Lucky think he is in KBW category is it?

So even if you lead a healthy life and still can have high risk of heart attack, just blame it on the genes lah. It's all fated.

Anonymous said...

Me am hoping, sincerely hoping that during his medical leave, Minister Khaw has given some thoughts to the people regarding health cares.

Now that he had first hand experiences of what it is like to be human and vulnerable. And how important it is to have proper medical check up, medication and surgery, it is time for him to review policies formulated by his ministry.

He should also realized that claiming to be religiously pious ain't going to assure him good long life. However, me can assure him that if he acts conscientiously, he will not be afraid of his morbidity. Of course, this applies to all people, especially those that have powers and could affect the wellbeings of the masses.

Me am of the view that SIN Leaders are short in consciences and hence incapable of empathy. No matter how much one claims to be religiously pious, the lack of conscience is unlikely to make one venerable.

patriot

Anonymous said...

Please do not slander Mr Khaw, he has proposed that calcium scan be subsidised by the government and the balance can be paid by medishield. Way to go Minister.

Lucky Tan said...

anon 01:53,

Several hundred thousand self-employed and housewives don't even have medishield.

Lucky Tan said...

anon 01:53,

Where is the link that says Minister Khaw wants to allow use of medishield for calcium tests and subsidy so that more people can benefit the same test as him?

I been searching for past 20 minutes and cannot find it.

Alan Wong said...

During the last couple of years, the NHPolyclinic at Clementi has undergone many facelifts. What appears still new is torn down and re-built & upgraded again and again. I have witnessed at least 2 major upgrades during the last 2 or 3 years. It's just a sheer waste of funds. They must be making tonnes of monies to be able to upgrade like that.

It now spots a brand new look and even has an enclosed posh waiting area supposedly for private paying patients like foreigners. Do we need an upmarket look for a community polyclinic ?

Meanwhile, seeing the doctor at Polyclinic is no longer cheap. Basic consultation fee has gone up from $8 to $9.50 while lab tests has gone up from $9 to $10.50. The medicine bill is now a lump sum figure without any cost breakdown as previously given as if to prevent one from noticing any price increases.

A visit to the polyclinic is now comparable to that charged by a private clinic when we add up the all individual charges together.

So the question now is are we paying our medical bills through our nose for all these unnessary costs for upgradings? What was exactly wrong with the older design layout which already a class of its own ?

Can our PAP govt stop their wasteful practice of frequently upgrading all these facilities in the name of progress and development but ends up with consumers having to foot extra bills for these nice by unnecessary features continuously ?

The govt must remember that poorer and older citizens can ill afford to pay for all these 'extras' that doesn't come cheap in the first place. In fact I have witnessed some senior citizens can only afford to buy a loaf of budget bread or a can or 2 of canned vegetables when checking out at NTUC Fairprice counters.

Anonymous said...

Oop Lucky, the subsidised comment was meant sarcastically. Perhaps they will use it as a election carrot. Vote PAP and Prevent Heart attack.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the fella whose wife was ferried back from London after suffering a stroke. He was full of praises for SIA and the medical care. But he forgot that membership has its privileges, lesser mortals just have to die and drot overseas.

Fievel said...

Lucky, great article. You might have done much more for Singaporeans than any million-dollar-ministers with your article..given that Khaw reads this article (and given the internet savvy reputation of his, he must have by now) and that he reflects upon his own conscience and start working for the people and not his Masters.


Hi Run Road, do you have a blog? I like your brand of writing. If you do, can you post it here?

Hearty, much as I loathe the men-in-whites, maybe we shouldn't stoop to their level and curse their deaths.

Anonymous said...

I have an ex-colleague who lead a very healthy lifestyle but stills suffers a heart attack. A good thing he was a private banker before his heart attack & his pay is definetly above SGD10K. So I'm sure he can afford the treatment & hospital bills. Not so sure about those folks with low income & live & eat unhealthly like buying SGD1.20 cheap packet of nasi lemak as a meal.

Anonymous said...

Ordinary folks usually trust their doctors so if their doctors never tell them about any lab test that may save their lives, they are in the dark. I think, as someone here commented - "state policy for lesser mortals means "recognise your mortality and the limits of medicine".

At the level of rich or VVIPs, the opposite kicks in. $$$ or the elite get the best of healthcare, etc. Ours not to question why.

Anonymous said...

CPF is actually a crab trap - once
entered, very difficult to come out.

lim said...

My mum complaint of frequent breathlessness a few years ago, she also did the usual annual tests at the clinic, and the reports didn't indicate anything serious, in fact the doctor said her heart is still good.. Finally, the doctor wrote a referral letter for her to national heart centre. She went there for some tests, but the tests again show there is nothing wrong with her heart, the doctors suspected maybe it is gastric.. so wanted to refer her to that dept. Then my brother's friend recommended her family's doctor, so the doctor did a scope check, and found that two of her arteries are blocked, and did a stent implant for my mum... So much for normal tests.. and so much for national heart centre..

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