The Straits Times
Published on Jan 23, 2013

Discounts and surcharges not the answer


I DISAGREE with the suggestions to use monetary measures to deter non-emergency patients from thronging the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of public hospitals ("Easing A&E queues: Try carrot-and-stick approach" by Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan; last Saturday).

I appreciate that non-emergency patients who crowd the A&E department prevent people who badly need urgent help from getting prompt attention from triage staff.

But patients who come to the A&E departments are, by virtue of their anxiety, fearful that something serious is happening to them. They find it more satisfying to go to the A&E department for urgent assessment and treatment, rather than lose precious time visiting their family physician or the polyclinic.

Charging such patients more would only lead to perceptions of discrimination in the way patients are treated at the A&E department.

The Government takes pains to ensure that medical care is equitable and affordable to all. Discounts and surcharges are commercial expediencies that are not compatible with our health-care system.

The authorities should consider non-monetary measures instead.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)