20 February 2013


Now that Paul and I are nearing the end of his contract and are faced with the possibility that we may leave Singapore, my brain has gone into, “what do I still need to post about?” mode. I have a couple touristy things left on my “eventually” list, so I will have to get to those in the next few weeks. 

One of my biggest concerns about potentially moving and potentially living in Papua New Guinea (yeah, we’ll talk about that later) is definitely health care. In a place ranked in the bottom 5 percent of the worst places to live, I wonder what the health care will be like in the capital city where we may reside. (For the record, the capital city is not as awful as some may think, according to the expats who actually live there.)

I see my Singapore doctor all the time. We could be friends. At least that’s what Nicola and I both think. Our doctor is part of the Pacific Healthcare medical group. The offices are located in the Paragon building at Orchard, just across the street from their affiliated hospital, Mount Elizabeth. There are a million things that I like about Pacific Healthcare but what I like most is that ability to call any doctor in the system – they have general practitioners, specialists, dentists, labs, everything – and get an appointment, usually on the same day and definitely within 24 hours – without a referral. Amazing. And unheard of in America.

Our favorite doctor (code for Dr. Tan See Lin, our general practitioner) is Singaporean from Penang, Malaysia. She has taught me more about health care and my own body than any science, biology or anatomy class I ever took – even in college. She has her own sense of style, typically wearing fancy dresses, sparkly jewelry, maybe a headband and always a dressed up pair of shoes. She is hilarious, sarcastic and informative at the same time. She teaches. We learn.

So for anyone out there who thinks they need to see a white doctor who graduated from a familiar university is their own country, forget that theory. Singaporean doctors are amazing.

Paul and I had to see the doctor today because we have just been approved for Singapore permanent residency (yay!). In order to exchange our green card for a blue one, we needed to get HIV and tuberculosis tests. Paul hates needles and people taking his blood, so he decided that if he was coming in to get these tests done, he may as well get his whole self checked.

Since we just needed chest X-rays and blood taken, I was surprised when the receptionist asked me to head back to the doctor’s office. When Paul sat down, it made sense.

”Your wife I know, so I don’t need to know anything for this paperwork. But you, you I do not know.”

”Yeah, he only goes to the doctor every five years,” I said.

”I’m fine!” he pleaded. “I’m healthy!”

”You are the worst kind of patient,” the doctor told him. “Because when you get sick, it will stress you out because you are never sick. And then, it will take forever for you to feel better.”

He went through the family history, asked all the questions he had and we were on our way. Two chest X-rays, two HIV test and a full blood panel ran $511 that will later be reimbursed by our insurance provider. The health screening was more than half the cost, so I perceive health care to be relatively cheap. Who gets an X-ray and a blood test for $85 in America?

There were a couple things that I had to get used to but now I don’t want anything to change. I remember the first time I called to make an appointment. I needed to see the doctor and the woman on the phone asked when I wanted to come in. Typically, I was told the first available appointment, so this was new to me. “Want to come now?” she asked? Uh….really? Same. Day. Appointments.

When I am sick or have an issue that requires medication, do I need to find a pharmacy? No. Do I need to go to the grocery? No. Where do I go? The front desk. Say what? That’s right, the same woman who answers the phone, schedules my appointments, greets me when I arrive, escorts me into the doctor’s office, takes my blood, height and weight and settles my bill is the same woman who dispenses my drugs – in a plastic bag.

Now, the one issue I had with the plastic bag was the elimination of the FDA paperwork telling me all about my drug, possible side effects, drug warnings, whether I should eat or not, etc. This time I was handed a tiny, clear zip-lock with a label stating my name and the drug name. That was it.

”Do I need to take this on an empty stomach,” I asked.

”No, no need,” she replied.

”The last time I was on something similar, I wasn’t allowed to eat for a three-hour period.”

”No, no problem.”

O.K. Did I trust her right away? No. I went home and did my research on the interweb. Do I trust her now? Yes. I have been in that office once every month or two for the last two years. They know me (though the ladies at the front do refer to me by my last name instead of my first), we joke around. They now know my husband. We should have his results tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. Has been fun to read and informative for me as we plan to move out there soon!