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.