Single charge of $80 for long consultation

I wish to clarify some points in Tuesday's report ("'Nothing wrong' with doc's separate billing for 2 illnesses").

Several days before, my clinic assistant received a call from senior health correspondent Salma Khalik, in the midst of a busy morning session, to inquire of a case where she claimed the patient had been billed separately for two conditions.

The reporter queried the $80 consultation charge, to which the assistant replied that it was for two different problems.

Subsequently, the call was passed to me. In the brief phone interview, we discussed the case pertaining to a patient with tonsillitis and gastritis who had seen me a few days ago and was charged $80 for consultation.

No specific patient details were provided to me by Ms Khalik. Furthermore, I am legally bound by confidentiality laws to not disclose patient case details. This was why I could provide only a general answer based on the information that the reporter provided.

It is my practice to charge for a long consultation (as a complex case) when there is more than one condition that requires attention.

It is also clearly stated on the clinic consultation charges display that short consultations start from $40, and long consultations start from $50, and not a flat rate, contrary to the report.

In this particular instance, a single charge of $80 would be applicable for the long consultation involving two different conditions that each required equal and separate attention.

As the billing was done by the clinic assistant, it served as a simple and objective avenue that is easy for the assistant to carry out.

I have been serving in Whampoa Drive since 1994, and this fee structure has been in place since, in the absence of any ministry guidelines on fees.

However, it seems that miscommunication between the patient and the clinic assistant, and/or the reporter has given rise to the impression of a separate billing for two ailments, which was definitely not the case.

It is a single charge, in one billing, for a long consultation that involved two entirely different conditions.

It is our commitment to provide quality care to patients and we always strive to ensure they are fully aware of all aspects related to their individual treatment.

Wee Chee Chau (Dr)
Wee's Family Clinic and Surgery


EDITOR'S NOTE:

When our reporter asked Dr Wee whether he charged multiple consultation fees if a patient had more than one problem, he said he did. He was quoted in our report as adding: "When you have two problems, it's like seeing a doctor twice." To be doubly sure about this, our reporter asked whether a patient would be charged three consultation fees if he had three conditions, and she cited the common conditions of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Dr Wee said "yes", and added that the consultation for diabetes would exceed $60 because it is a more complex problem.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Single charge of $80 for long consultation'. Print Edition | Subscribe