Sunday, November 19, 2006

Polyclinics: Is it wrong to have long queues?

The Straits Times (Saturday 18 November 2006) reported that Singapore's Polyclinics are experiencing Long Queues before the Clinics open and that Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said to "fix" the problem. I don't understand the fuss over the long queues at the Polyclinics.

1. Why do people go to Polyclinics?
- Because they couldn't afford the higher fees charged by the GP's.
- Because they had some chronic illnesses and Polyclinics offers better facilities to treat their illnesses at affordable rates.

2. Why the long queue in the mornings?
- Because they had to work later to feed themselves.
- Because Polyclinics have their lunch break around 1pm; they will stop taking in more patients at about 11am to 12pm and you have to wait till 2pm before they start operating again
- Because they got Blood Tests to take. These require fasting of at least 8 hours. So taking it in the morning is the most accurate and allows them to eat later.

3. Is it a wrong to have long queues in Polyclinics?
Depends on how you look at the situation.
- If you rate Singapore as a First World Country, then clearly it shows that Singapore still has a large group of low and middle income citizens.
- The long queues also showed that Polyclinics are still true to their basic objectives: To provide a good and affordable healthcare to citizens, as citizens are still using Polyclinics.

The minister suggested that Chairs be laid out for the people or that a staff opens the door earlier for the people to sit inside. I just want to point out that since it's a queue, chairs will not be a feasible solution.

On a side note, I want to say to the Polyclinics that the waiting time is rather slow. Waiting Time is the time between your queue number to the time the doctor sees you.

Although I do understand that Polyclinics have many patients to care for every day, the average waiting time in the morning/ afternoon is at least 40mins to 2hours (based on my experience). The problem seems to be in the communications between Doctors and Patients as I had noted that Doctors are mostly expatriates and a number of patients may not speak English fluently. Perhaps we should deploy more locals in Polyclinics and use the expatriates in Hospitals where a Singapore nurse or social workers can help translate the languages.

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