Forum: Restrictions will affect Asean patients undergoing regular treatment here

Many patients from Asean countries, especially Indonesia, come to Singapore regularly to seek medical treatment.

While I fully understand the rationale for and support the Government tightening border restrictions to reduce imported cases of Covid-19, such measures have unintended medical consequences.

Under the new rules, patients from Asean countries will have to prepare to serve a 14-day stay-home notice in Singapore first, before seeking medical treatment. The hurdle is high as not many of them can afford to stay in Singapore for those 14 days.

Many such patients with chronic medical problems, such as viral hepatitis, cancer, ischaemic heart disease and diabetes mellitus, require regular follow-ups and continued medications.

Many advanced investigation modalities, such as positron emission tomography scans and magnetic resonance elastography of the liver, are available only in expert centres such as tertiary hospitals in Singapore.

And many medications, especially the latest ones, are available only in Singapore.

There will be adverse medical consequences if these patients, who have been on regular follow-up, are not allowed to enter Singapore to seek treatment in their usual manner.

I have just received an inquiry from an existing patient of mine from Jakarta. She suffers from chronic hepatitis B and has been on an antiviral agent for a year. Her medication cannot be stopped prematurely as she could suffer from a condition that we hepatologists call withdrawal flares. Withdrawal flares could be serious and even fatal in rare situations.

I would be grateful if the Ministry of Health could give consideration to non-Covid-19 Asean patients who have been on regular follow-up with Singapore doctors. Perhaps they can be allowed to enter Singapore to seek medical treatment for non-respiratory diseases, if their Singapore doctors provide certification.

If these patients suffer adverse medical consequences due to inability to seek timely treatment in Singapore, they may lodge complaints to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) or even lodge a civil suit against the doctor.

SMC and the Singapore courts should also consider waiving liability of medical negligence for local doctors during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Desmond Wai (Dr)